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HE life of Las Casas appears to me one 
of the most interesting, indeed I may 
say the most interesting, of all those that 
I have ever studied ; and I think it is more than 
the natural prejudice of a writer for his hero, 
that inclines me to look upon him as one of the 
most remarkable personages that has ever ap- 
peared in history. It is well known that he has 
ever been put in the foremost rank of philan- 
thropists; but he had other qualifications which 
were also extraordinary. He was not a mere 
philanthropist, possessed only with one idea. He 
had one of those large minds which take an in- 
terest in everything. As an historian, a man of 
letters, a colonist, a missionary, a theologian, an 
active ruler in the Church, a man of business, 
and an observer of natural history and science, 


he holds a very high position amongst the notable 
men of his own age. The ways, the customs, the 
religion, the policy, the laws, of the new people 
whom he saw, the new animals, the new trees, 
the new herbs, were all observed and chronicled 
by him. 

In an age eminently superstitious, he was en- 
tirely devoid of superstition. At a period when 
the most extravagant ideas as to the divine rights 
of kings prevailed, he took occasion to remind 
kings themselves to their faces, that they are only 
permitted to govern for the good of the people ; 
and dared to upbraid Philip the Second for his 
neglect of Spanish and Indian affairs, through 
busying himself with Flemish, English, and 
French policy. 

At a period when brute force was universally 
appealed to in all matters, but more especially in 
those that pertained to religion, he contended before 
Juntas and Royal Councils that missionary enter- 
prise is a thing that should stand independent of 
all military support ; that a missionary should go 
forth with his life in his hand, relying only on 
the protection that God will vouchsafe him, and 
depending neither upon civil nor military assist- 


ance. In fact his works would, even in the 
present day, form the best manual extant for 

He had certainly great advantages: he lived 
in most stirring times; he was associated with 
the greatest personages of his day ; and he had 
the privilege of taking part in the discovery and 
colonization of a new world. 

Eloquent, devoted, charitable, fervent, some- 
times too fervent, yet very skilful in managing 
men, he will doubtless remind the reader of his 
prototype, Saint Paul ; and it was very fitting 
that he should have been called, as he was, 
the " Apostle of the Indies." 

Nothwithstanding our experience, largely con- 
firmed by history, of the ingenuity often mani- 
fested in neglecting to confer honour upon those 
who most deserve it, one cannot help wondering 
that the Romish Church never thought of en- 
rolling Las Casas as a saint, amongst such fellow- 
labourers as Saint Charles of Borromeo, or Saint 
Francis of Assisi. 

His life is very interesting, if only from this 
circumstance, that, perhaps more than any man 
of his time, he rose to great heights of power and 

viii PREFACE. 

influence, and then, to use a phrase of his own, 
fell sheer down " into terrible abysses." His 
spirit, however, almost always rose indomitable ; 
and the (< abysses " did not long retain him as 
their captive. 

Among his singular advantages must be men- 
tioned his great physical powers, and tenacity of 
life. I do not remember that he ever mentions 
being ill. He exceeded in his journeyings his 
renowned master and friend, Charles the Fifth, 
and he lived fully as laborious a life as did that 

When Charles, a youth of sixteen, came to 
the throne, Las Casas was a man of about forty, 
of great power and influence. He soon won the 
young king's attachment; during the whole of 
whose active life he worked vigorously with him 
at Indian affairs; and when, broken in health 
and in spirit, Charles retired to San Yuste, Las 
Casas was in full vigour, and had his way with 
Philip the Second, not, however, without the aid 
of the Imperial recluse. For almost the last 
business which Charles attended to was one in 
which the dying monarch gave his warm support 
to his friend Las Casas. 


With Charles's grandfather, Ferdinand the 
Catholic, Las Casas had also worked at Indian 
affairs; and, with his usual sincerity, had not 
failed to inform that king of many truths which 
concerned his soul and the welfare of his king- 

Columbus, Cardinal Ximenes, Cortes, Pizarro, 
Vasco Nunez, Gattinara the great Flemish states- 
man, were all known to Las Casas : in fact, he saw 
generations of notable men — statesmen, monarchs, 
inventors, discoverers, and conquerors — 'rise, 
flourish, and die; and he had continually to re- 
commence his arduous conflict with new states- 
men, new conquerors, and new kings. He sur- 
vived Ferdinand fifty years, Charles the Fifth 
eight years, Columbus sixty years, Cortes nine- 
teen years, Ximenes forty-nine years, Pizarro 
twenty-five years, and Gattinara thirty-seven 

He was twenty-eight years old when he com- 
menced his first voyage to the Indies; and he 
was still in full vigour, not failing in sight, hearing, 
or intellect, when, at ninety-two years of age, 
he contended before Philip the Second's ministers 
in favour of the Guatemalans having Courts of 


Justice of their own. Having left the pleasant 
climate of Valladolid, doubtless excited by the 
cause he was urging, and denying himself the 
rest he required, he was unable to bear up against 
that treacherous air of Madrid, of which the pro- 
verb justly says, " though it will not blow out a 
candle, it will yet kill a man," and so, was cut 
off, prematurely, as I always feel, in the ninety- 
second year of his age. 

His powers, like those of a great statesman of our 
own time, decidedly improved as he grew older. 
He became, I believe, a better writer, a more 
eloquent speaker, and a much wider and more 
tolerant thinker towards the end of his life. His 
best treatise* (in my judgment) was written when 
he was ninety years of age, and is even now, when 
its topics have been worn somewhat threadbare, 
a most interesting work. 

To show that I have not exaggerated his 
great natural powers as well as his learning, 
I need only refer to his celebrated controversy 
with Sepulveda. This Sepulveda was then the 
greatest scholar in Spain, and was backed, more- 

* On Peru. 


over, by other learned men ; but Las Casas was 
quite a match for them all. In argument he was 
decidedly superior. Texts, quotations, conclu- 
sions of Councils, opinions of fathers and school- 
men were showered down upon him. He met 
them all with weapons readily produced from the 
same armouries, and showed that he too had 
not in vain studied his Saint Thomas Aquinas and 
his Aristotle. His great opponent, Sepulveda, 
in a private letter describing the controversy, 
speaks of Las Casas as " most subtle, most 
vigilant, and most fluent, compared with whom 
the Ulysses of Homer was inert and stuttering." 
Las Casas, at the time of the controversy, was 
seventy-six years of age. 

The reader of this introduction will perhaps 
think that if Las Casas is such a man as I have 
described, and his life is of such exceeding interest, 
it is strange that, comparatively speaking, so little 
has been heard about him. This, however, can 
be easily explained. His life can only be fully 
pourtrayed after reference to books, manuscripts, 
and official documents of the greatest rarity, not 
within the reach even of scholars, until recent 
years. The government of Spain has of late 


years thrown open to all students, in the most 
unreserved manner, its literary treasures, and 
afforded every facility for their study. In mo- 
dern times, too, the Americans have taken great 
pains to investigate the early records of America, 
and have always been remarkably generous, in 
the use they have allowed to be made of the 
documents which they have rescued and brought 

There are few men to whom, up to the present 
time, the words which Shakespeare makes Mark 
Antony say of Caesar, would more apply than to 
Las Casas: — 

" The evil that men do lives after them, 
The good is oft interred with their bones." 

At one inauspicious moment of his life he 
advised a course which has ever since been the 
one blot upon his well-earned fame, and too 

* A short letter of Las Casas — of Las Casas who had 
very often not a maravedi in his pocket — has sometimes 
been bought by an enterprising American at a sum 
amounting to more than ten thousand maravedis, and the 
purchaser was but too glad if his purchase could be of any 
use to an historian. 

PREFACE. xiii 

often has this advice been the only thing which, 
when the name of Las Casas has been men- 
tioned, has occurred to men's minds respecting 
him. He certainly did advise that negroes should 
be brought to the New World. I think, how- 
ever, I have amply shown in the " Spanish 
Conquest" that he was not the first to give this 
advice, and that it had long before been largely 
acted upon. It is also to be remembered, that 
this advice, to introduce negroes, was but a very 
small part of his general scheme. Had that 
been carried into effect as a whole, it would have 
afforded the most efficient protection for negroes, 
Indians, and for all those who were to be subject 
to the Spanish Colonial Empire. 

However, Las Casas makes no such defence 
for himself, but thus frankly owns his great error, 
saying, in his history, " This advice, that licence 
should be given to bring negro slaves to these 
lands, the Clerigo Casas first gave, not consi- 
dering the injustice with which the Portuguese 
take them and make them slaves; which advice, 
after he had apprehended the nature of the 
thing, he would not have given for all he had 
in the world. For he always held that they 


had been made slaves unjustly, and tyranni- 
cally ; for the same reason holds good of them 
as of the Indians."* 

This one error must not be allowed to over- 
shadow the long and noble career of one, who 
never, as far as I am aware, on any other occa- 
sion, yielded to worldly policy; who, for nearly 
sixty years, held fast to a grand cause, never 
growing weary of it ; and who confronted great 
statesmen, potent churchmen, and mighty kings, 
with perfect fearlessness, in defence of an injured, 
a calumniated, and down-trodden race, — a race 
totally unable to protect themselves from the 
advance of a pseudo-civilization which destroyed 
as much as it civilized. 

October, 1867. 

* It is a curious fact in history, that this suggestion of 
Las Casas tended, as far as it was adopted, to check the 
importation of negroes into the New World. The licence 
to import was restricted, for a term of eight years, to the 
number of 4000, whereas the emperor had been requested 
to allow the importation of negroes without any restriction 


The greater part of the subject-matter for this 
life is to be found in my " Spanish Conquest in 
America," but I am indebted to my son, Edmund 
Arthur Helps, for having utilized and added to 
it, with my assistance, in the preparation of the 
present biographical narrative. 


Chapter I. 

HARACTER of Las Casas— His Parentage 
and Education — He joins with Narvaez 
in an Expedition to Cuba — He is sum- 
moned to Xagua 1 

Chapter II. 

The Conversion of Las Casas — His Voyage to Spain — 
He goes to Court— The Death of King Ferdinand 17 

Chapter III. 

Las Casas sees the Cardinal Ximenes — He is appointed 
to go out and inquire into the wrongs of the Indians, 
with the Jeronimite Fathers, and made " Protector 
of the Indians" — He returns to Spain . .37 



Chapter IV. 

Las Casas is introduced to the Grand Chancellor, and 
lays his Emigration Scheme before the King — His 
Plans are checked by the Death of the Chancellor — 
He holds a Controversy with the Bishop of Burgos . 55 

Chapter V. 

Las Casas brings forward his Plan for founding a 
Colony — After failing in gaining his point with the 
Council of the Indies, he goes to Court, and succeeds 
in obtaining full power to carry out his design . 92 

Chapter VI. 

Las Casas tries to detain Ocampo's Expedition — Ho 
complains to the Audiencia — He is put in command 
of an Expedition to the Terra-firma — His followers 
desert him on his arrival there .... 129 

Chapter VII. 

Las Casas alone in the land — He is received into the 
Franciscan Monastery — Fate of his Colony . .144 

Chapter VIII. 

Las Casas becomes a Dominican Monk — He devotes 
himself to Literature 161 


Chapter IX. 

Las Casas in the Dominican Monastery — His Studies — 
He proposes to conquer the " Land of War" with 
the aid of his monks 178 

Chapter X. 

Las Casas succeeds in converting by peaceable means 
the "Land of War" — He is sent to Spain, and 
detained there by the Council of the Indies . .199 

Chapter XL 

Las Casas writes on Indian affairs — He is made Bishop 
of Chiapa — His troubles with his flock — He resigns 
the bishopric — His Controversy with Sepulveda . 232 

Chapter XII. 

Las Casas appeals to Philip II. through Carranza — He 
writes a Treatise on Peru — His Death — Review of 
his Life 277 


Character of Las Casas — His Parentage and Education — 
He joins with Narvaez in an Expedition to Cuba — He is sum' 
moned to Xagua. 

ARTHOLOMEW de Las Casas was 
the son of Antonio de Las Casas, one 
of Columbus's shipmates in his first 
voyage. Bartholomew was born at Seville in 
1474. His father became rich, and sent him as 
a student to Salamanca, where he remained till 
he was eighteen, and took a licentiate's degree. 
We then hear nothing of importance concerning 
him till 1498, when he accompanied his father in 
an expedition under Columbus to the West 
Indies, returning to Cadiz with the expedition in 

In 1502 he accompanied Nicholas de Ovando, a 
distinguished knight of Alacantara, who was going 


out to Hispaniola as governor of the Indies, 
was afterwards ordained priest,* and now, at the 
age of thirty-six, eight years after his arrival in 
the Indies, began to make his appearance on 
the stage of history. He was a very notable 
person, of that force of character and general 
ability, that he would have excelled in any 
career. Indeed, he did fulfil three or four vo- 
cations, being an eager man of business, a la- 
borious and accurate historian, a great reformer, 
a great philanthropist, and a vigorous ecclesiastic. 
Character The utmost that friends or enemies, I imagine, 

of Las 

Casas. could with the slightest truth allege against him, 

was an over-fervent temperament. If we had 
to arrange the faculties of great men, we should 
generally, according to our easy-working fancies, 
combine two characters to make our men of. 
And, in this case, we should not be sorry, if it 
might have been so, to have had a little of the 
wary nature of such a man as King Ferdinand 
the Second intermixed with the nobler elements 
of Las Casas. Considering, however, what great 
things Las Casas strove after, and how much he 

* He sang the first " new mass" in the Indies, from which 
it appears that he was the first priest ordained there. 


accomplished, it is ungracious to dwell more than 
is needful upon any defect or superfluity of his 
character. If it can be proved that he was on any 
occasion too impetuous in word or deed, it was in 
a cause that might have driven any man charged 
with it beyond all bounds of prudence in the ex- 
pression of his indignation. His nature had the 
merit of being as constant as it was ardent. He 
was eloquent, acute, truthful, bold, self-sacri- 
ficing, pious. We need not do more in praise 
of such a character than show it in action. 

In the whole course of West Indian coloniza- 
tion, a wise and humane forethought never could 
have been more wanted than at this period. 
Hispaniola was rapidly becoming depopulated of a critical 
Indians, and on the mode of renewing the the West 
population, we may almost say, depended the 
future destinies of slavery. 

In the year 1511 the Admiral Don Diego 
Columbus, Ovando's successor as governor of 
Hispaniola, undertook the subjection of Cuba. 
He chose for his Captain, Diego Velazquez, one 
of the original conquerors, a man of wealth, 
whose possessions in Hispaniola were in that part 
of the island nearest to Cuba. 



Las Casas The earliest mention made of Las Casas in con- 

joins Velaz- t _^_^ 

quez in an nection with West Indian history, is his being 


topacificate summoned by Diego Velazquez, to proceed to 


Cuba, where he arrived at the same time as 
Pamphilo de Narvaez, who had been selected 
by Velazquez as his lieutenant to join with Las 
Casas in the population and pacification — for 
such were the terms in vogue — of the island of 

One of the first expeditions of Narvaez was un- 
successful : it was in the province of Bayamo. 
He himself was nearly killed, and would never 
have escaped, but for the terror which his horse, 
an animal not hitherto seen by these Indians, 
inspired. These Indians, however, who had fled 
at the approach of the Spaniards, returned to beg 
pardon, and to be received into subjection. This 
appears astonishing, but may be easily explained. 
The territories into which they fled were occupied 
by other Indians, who had food enough for them- 
selves only ; and, therefore, after a brief sojourn, 
the unhappy fugitives, becoming most unwelcome 
guests, were tempted to return to their own 
country ; for the Spaniards, though terrible visit- 
ors in other respects, did not at once create a 


famine in those parts which they occupied, by 
reason of the comparative smallness of their num- 

By these means the province where the Spa- 
niards first landed, called Maici, and the adjacent 
one of Bayamo, were brought into complete sub- 
jection; and the inhabitants were then divided 
into repartimientos* and apportioned by Velaz- 
quez amongst his followers. After this Velazquez, 
who w r as about to be married, went to receive his 
bride, leaving his nephew, Juan de Grivalva, as 
his lieutenant (for Narvaez had not yet returned), 
and/ Las Casas as an adviser to the lieutenant. 
On the return of Narvaez, orders from Velazquez 
reached the place where Narvaez and Las Casas 
were stationed, directing them to make an expe- Expedition 
dition into the country of Camaguey, for the pur- and Nar- 
puse of " assuring " it, to use their phrase. The or 1514. 

* A repartimiento was a deed that ran thus : — " To you 
(such a one) is given an encomienda (or commandery) of so 
many Indians with such a Cacique, and you are to teach 
them the things of our Holy Catholic Faith." With respect 
to the implied condition of teaching the Indians the " Holy 
Catholic Faith," it was no more attended to from first to 
last than any formal clause in a deed which is supposed by 
the parties concerned to be a mere formality. 

his testi 


narrative of this expedition, which is given in full 
detail by Las Casas, an eye-witness and principal 
actor in the scene he describes, is very instructive. 

And here I must say for Las Casas, that I 
have not the slightest doubt of the truth of any 
statement which he thus vouches for. He mani- 
fests throughout his writings, in various little 
things, his accuracy and truthfulness. For in- 
Nature of stance, he is careful to point out the exact pro- 
nunciation of the Indian names, and shows a fair 
appreciation of those persons he is most bitterly 
opposed to. 

Before they reached the province of Camaguey 
they came to a place called Cueyba. This was 
the very spot where Ojecla — one of the explorers 
who followed Columbus — when shipwrecked, had 
left an image of the Virgin. Ojeda had been 
received with great kindness by the Indians in 
that vicinity, and the image which he left was 
now held in the highest reverence by the natives, 
who had built a church, adorning it inside with 
ornamental work made of cotton, and had set up 
an altar for the image. Moreover, they had com- 
posed couplets in honour of the Virgin, which 
they sang to sweet melodies, and accompanied 


with dancing. This image was also held in espe- 
cial reverence by the Spaniards, and Las Casas 
being anxious on that account to obtain it in ex- 
change for another image which he had brought 
with him, entered into treaty with the Cacique 
for that purpose. The Indian chief, however, 
was so alarmed at these overtures, that he fled by 
night, taking the beloved image with him. Las 
Casas, when he heard of this, was greatly discon- 
certed, fearing lest the neighbouring population 
should take up arms on behalf of their image. 
He managed, however, to quiet them, assuring 
them, that he would not only let them keep their 
own image, but that he would bestow upon them 
the one which he had brought with him. 

Such gentle means as these were invariably 
pursued by Las Casas with the greatest effect ; 
and it is evident from this story how very easy 
the conversion of the Indians would have been by 
mild means, instead of which it was made the pre- 
text with some, and the real justification with 
others, for the greatest inhumanities. 

The commands of Las Casas met with so much Las Casas 

. . . reverenced 

reverence from these simple people, that when by the 

. . natives of 

he sent by a messenger any bit or paper inserted at Cuba. 


the end of a stick, and the messenger declared that 
the paper bore such and such orders, they were 
implicitly obeyed. The Indians had in general 
the greatest respect and wonder for the commu- 
nication among the Spaniards by letter, for it ap- 
peared to them quite a miracle, how the infor- 
mation of what had been done in one place was 
made known in another by means of these mys- 
terious pieces of paper. 

One of the chief cares of the Clerigo (the title 
by which Las Casas describes himself) was, when- 
ever they halted in any Indian town or village, 
to assign separate quarters to the Indians and 
the Spaniards. By this means he prevented 
many disorders and much cruelty. But his prin- 
cipal business was to assemble the children in 
order to baptize them ; and, as he observes, there 
were many that God bestowed his sacred baptism 
upon in good time ; for none, or scarcely any, of 
all those children remained alive a few months 
The In the course of this journey of pacification, 


approach the Spaniards approached a large town of the 


Indians called Caonao, where an immense num- 
ber of the natives had congregated together, 


chiefly to see the horses which the Spaniards 
brought with them. In the morning of the day 
on which the Spaniards under Narvaez and Las 
Casas, amounting to about a hundred men, arrived 
at Caonao, they stopped to breakfast in the dry 
bed of a stream where there were many stones 
suitable for grindstones ; and they all took the 
opportunity of sharpening their swords. From 
thence a wide and arid plain led them to Caonao. 
They would have suffered terribly from thirst, 
but that some Indians kindly brought them water 
on the road. At last they reached Caonao at the 
time of vespers. Here they halted. The chief 
population of this Indian town and the vicinity 
was assembled together in one spot, sitting on 
the ground, and gazing, no doubt with wonder, 
at the horses of the Spaniards. Apart, in a 
large hut, were five hundred of the natives, who, 
being more timid than the others, were con- 
tent to prepare victuals for their visitors, but 
declined any nearer approaches. The Spaniards 
had with them about a thousand of their own 
Indian attendants. The Clerigo was preparing 
for the division of the rations amongst the men, 
when suddenly a Spaniard, prompted, as was 



of the In- 
dians at 

thought, by the Devil, drew his sword : the 
rest drew theirs ; and immediately they all began 
to hack and hew the poor Indians, who were sit- 
ting quietly near them, and offering no more re- 
sistance than so many sheep. At the precise 
moment when the massacre began, the Clerigo 
was in the apartment where the Spaniards were 
to sleep for the night. He had five Spaniards 
with him : some Indians who had brought the 
baggage were lying on the ground, sunk in fa- 
tigue. The five Spaniards hearing the blows of 
the swords of their comrades without, immediately 
fell upon the Indians who had brought the bag- 
gage. Las Casas, however, was enabled to pre- 
vent that slaughter, and the five Spaniards rushed 
out to join their comrades. The Clerigo went 
also, and, to his grief and horror, saw heaps of 
dead bodies already strewed about, " like sheaves 
of corn," waiting to be gathered up. " What 
think you these Spaniards have been doing ?" ex- 
claimed Narvaez to Las Casas ; and Las Casas 
replied, " I commend both you and them to the 
Devil."* The Clerigo did not stop, however, to 

* " Que os ofresco a vos y a ellos el Diablo." — Las 
Casas, Hist, de las Indias, MS. lib iii. cap. 29. 


bandy words with the Commander, but rushed 
hither and thither, endeavouring to prevent the 
indiscriminate slaughter which was going on, of 
men, women, and children. Then he entered the 
great hut, where he found that many Indians had 
already been slaughtered, but some had escaped 
by the pillars and the woodwork, and were up 
aloft. To them he exclaimed, " Fear not, there 
shall be no more slaughter — no more ; " upon 
which, one of them, a young man of five-and- 
twenty, trusting to these words, came down. 
But, as Las Casas justly says, the Clerigo could 
not be in all places at once, and, as it happened, 
he left this hut directly, indeed, before the poor 
young man got down, upon which a Spaniard 
drew a short sword, and ran the Indian through 
the body. Las Casas was back in time to afford 
the last rites of the Church to the dying youth. 
To see the fearful wounds that were made, it 
seemed, the historian says, as if the Devil had 
guided the men that day to those stones in the dry 
bed of the river. 

When inquiry was made as to who had been The mas- 

sacre at 

the author of this massacre, no one replied. This Caonao 


shows how causeless the massacre was, for if there 


had been any good reason for it, the Spaniard 
who first drew his sword would have justified 
himself, and perhaps claimed merit for the 
action. It may have been panic in this one 
man ; it may have been momentary madness, for 
such things are taken much less into account than 
is requisite ; but, whatever the cause, the whole 
transaction shows the conduct of the Spaniards 
towards the Indians in a most unfavourable 
War, when The maxim, that the evil consequences of war 

most fatal 

in its con- depend, not so much upon the nature of the 


victory, or the rage of the combatants, or the 

cause of the quarrel, as upon the contempt, jus- 
tifiable or not, which the victorious side has for 
the vanquished, seems to me applicable through- 
out history. The wars between nations that 
respect one another may have most sanguinary 
and cruel results, but not so injurious to humanity 
as when Spartan conquers Helot, Mahomedan 
conquers Christian, Spaniard conquers Moor or 
Indian ; or as, in general, when one nation with 
much civilization, or much bigotry, conquers an- 
other nation of little civilization, or of another 
creed. The Romans may in some instances have 


offered a splendid exception to this rule ; but in 
the general history of the world it holds good. 

On the news of this massacre at Caonao,* all The Indians 

fly to the 

the inhabitants of the province deserted their "Garden 

x of the 

towns, flying for refuge to the innumerable islets Queen." 
on that coast, called the " Garden of the Queen." 
The Spaniards, leaving the Indian town of Cao- 
nao, which they had desolated in the manner 
related above, formed a camp in the vicinity, or 
rather ordered the Indians to form it for them, 
for each Spaniard had at least eight or ten native 
attendants. Amongst those of Las Casas was an 
old Indian of much repute in the island, called 
Camacho, who had accompanied the Clerigo vo- 
luntarily, to be under his protection. One day, 
while the Spaniards were at this camp, a young 
Indian, sent as a spy from the former inhabitants 
of Caonao, came into the camp, and making his 
way directly to the Clerigo's tent, addressed Ca- 
macho, begging to be taken into the Clerigo's 
service, and requesting that he might be allowed 


" No quedo piante ni mamante." — Las Casas. A pro- 
verbial expression — " There remained neither the child that 
sucks nor the one that chirrups." 


to bring his younger brother also. Camacho in- 
formed Las Casas of this, who was delighted with 
the news, as it gave an opportunity of communi- 
cating with those Indians who had fled. Accord- 
ingly he received the Indian very kindly, made 
him some trifling presents, and besought him to 
bring back his countrymen to their homes, and to 
assure them that they should not be further 
molested. The young man, to whom Camacho 
gave the name of Adrianico, took his leave, pro- 
mising to bring his brother and the rest of the 
Indians. Some days passed away, and Las Casas 
began to think that Adrianico would not be able 
to perform his promise, when one evening he made 
his appearance with his brother and a hundred 
and eighty Indian men and women. Children are 
not mentioned, and I conjecture these Indians 
would not run the risk of bringing them within 
the power of the Spaniards. 

It was a melancholy sight to see the little band 

of fugitives, with their small bundles of household 

things on their shoulders, and their strings of 

People of beads as presents for the Clerigo and the Spa- 


return. niards, returning, perforce, for want of food — 

and perhaps too with some of that inextinguish- 


able fondness for home which endears so large a 
part of the world to its inhabitants — to the spot 
where they had but lately seen such cruelties per- 
petrated on their friends and relations. The Cle- 
rigo was delighted to see them, but very sad too, 
when he considered their gentleness, their humi- 
lity, their poverty, and their sufferings. Pam- 
philo de Narvaez united with Las Casas in doing 
all he could to assure these poor people of their 
safety ; and they were dismissed to their empty 
homes. This example of good treatment reassured 
the Indians of that vicinity, who in consequence 
returned to their houses. 

The Spaniards pursued their purpose of pacifi- 
cating Cuba, now taking to their vessels and 
coasting along the northern shore, and now tra- 
versing the interior of the country. When they 
came to the province of Havana, they found that 
the Indians, having heard of the massacre at 
Caonao and other such proceedings, had all fled ; 
upon which Las Casas sent messengers to the Las Casas 

n'a? a. n j.i i_ • sends to the 

different Caciques, the messengers bearing mys- caciques to 

,. . n. . i-i.ji l o assure them 

terious pieces ot paper inserted at the end of f safety, 
sticks, which had before been found so efficacious, 
and assuring these Caciques of safety and protec- 


tion. The result was, that eighteen or nineteen 
of these Caciques came and placed themselves in 
the power of the Spaniards ; and it is an asto- 
nishing instance of the barbarity and folly of the 
Spanish captain Narvaez, that he put them in 
chains, and expressed an intention of burning 
them alive. Probably he thought that the pro- 
vince by this means, losing all its chiefs at one 
blow, would become hopeless and obedient. The 
Clerigo in the strongest manner protested against 
this monstrous treachery, to which he would have 
been so unwilling a party ; and partly by en- 
treaties, partly by threats, succeeded in procuring 
the release of all these Caciques except one, the 
most powerful, who was carried to Velazquez, 
but was afterwards set at liberty. 
Las Casas This seems a strange method of assuring and 

joins Velaz- . 

quez at pacmcating the Indians ; but their want of re- 


sources, and the absence of any experience of such 
war as they had now to encounter, if they made 
any resistance, caused them easily to succumb. 
Thejisland of Cuba was now considered to be 
pacificated, and Pamphilo de Narvaez and Las 
Casas were ordered to join Velazquez at Xagua. 


The Conversion of Las Casas — His Voyage to Spain — He 
goes to Court — The Death of King Ferdinand. 

^f AS CASAS, as the reader will here- 
after see, had many troubles and sor- 
rows to bear ; but at this particular 
period he was blessed with that which is always 
one of the greatest blessings, but which, like 
hospitality in a partially civilized country, seems 
to have flourished more, as being more needed, 
in rude, hard times. In a word, he had a real 
friend. This friend's name was Pedro de la 
Renteria. Their friendship was most intimate, {.^ d n j 
and had subsisted for many years. De Ren- 
teria, as often happens in friendship, presented 
a curious contrast to Las Casas. He was a man 
who might well have been a monk — a devout, 
contemplative person, given much to solitude and 

Las Casas 
had a 




Las Casas 

prayer ; and Las Casas mentions a trait in his 
character which exactly coincides with the rest of 
it, namely, that he was a most liberal man ; but that 
his liberality seemed rather to flow from habit and 
a carelessness about worldly goods than from a 
deliberate judgment exercised in matters of bene- 
volence. This good man's occupations, however, 
were entirely secular, and he was employed by 
Diego Velazquez as Alcalde. 

When the island was considered to be settled 
and the Governor began to give repartimientos, 
knowing the friendship that existed between Las 
Casas and Renteria, he gave them a large village in 
common, and Indians in repartimiento* This land 
of theirs was about a league from Xagua, on the 
river Arimao ; and there they lived, the Clerigo 

* " Diole (a Pedro de Renteria) Indios de repartimiento 
juntamente con el Padre, dando a ambos un buen Pueblo 
y grande, con los cuales el Padre comenzo a entender en 
hacer grangerias y en echar parte de ellos en las ininas, 
teniendo barto mas cuidado de ellas que de dar doctrina a 
los Indios, habiendo de ser como lo era principalmente 
aquel su oficio ; pero en aquella materia tan ciego estaba 
por. aquel tiempo el buen Padre cqmo los Seglares todos 
que tenia por hijos." — Las Casas, Hist de las Indias, MS., 
lib. ill. cap. 32. 


having the greater part of the management of the 

joint affairs, as being much the more lively and Las Casas 

a busy, 

the busier man. Indeed, he confesses that he money- 
was as much engaged as others in sending his man. 

Indians to the mines and making as large a profit 

of their labour as possible. At the same time, 

however, he was kind to them personally, and 

provided carefully for their sustenance; but, to 

use his own words, " he took no more heed than 

the other Spaniards to bethink himself that his 

Indians were unbelievers, and of the duty that 

there was on his part to give them instruction, 

and to bring them to the bosom of the Church of 


As there was but one other clerigo in the 

whole island, and no friar, it was necessary for 

Las Casas occasionally to say mass and to preach. 

It happened that he had to do so on " the Feast 

of Pentecost," in the year 1514 ; and studying 

either the sermons that he preached himself, or 

that he heard the other clerigo preach at this Las Casns 


time, he began to ponder over certain passages with 
(" authorities" he calls them) of Scripture. 

* Las Casas, Hist, de las Indias, MS., lib. iii. cap. 78. 


The 34th chapter of Ecclesiasticus, the 18th, 
19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd verses, first arrested, 
and then enchained, his attention : — 

" He that sacrificeth of a thing wrongfully 
gotten, his offering is ridiculous : and the gifts of 
unjust men are not accepted. 

" The Most High is not pleased with the offer- 
ings of the wicked : neither is he pacified for sin 
by the multitude of sacrifices. 

" Whoso bringeth an offering of the goods of 
the poor doeth as one that killeth the son before 
his father's eyes. 

" The bread of the needy is their life ; he that 
defraudeth him thereof is a man of blood. 

" He that taketh away his neighbour's living 
slayeth him ; and he that defraudeth the labourer 
of his hire is a bloodshedder." 

I think that the Clerigo might have dwelt upon 
one of the remaining verses of the chapter with 
great profit : — 

" When one prayeth, and another curseth, 
whose voice will the Lord hear?" 

In recounting the steps which led to his con- 
version, Las Casas takes care to say, that what he 



had formerly heard the Dominicans preach in 
Hispaniola was, at this critical period of his life, of 
great service to him. Then he had only slighted 
their words; but he now particularly remembers 
a contest he had with a certain Religioso, who re- 
fused to give him absolution, because he possessed 
Indians. This is an instance of the great mistake 
it may be to hold your tongue about the truth, 
for fear it should provoke contest and harden an 
adversary in his opinion. The truths which he 
has heard sink into a man at some time or other : 
and, even when he retires from a contest, appa- 
rently fixed in his own conceits, it would often be 
found that if he had to renew the contest the next 
clay, he would not take up quite the same position 
that he had maintained before. The good seed 
sown by the Dominicans had now, after having 
been buried for some years, found a most fruitful 
soil; and it shot up in the ardent soul of the 
Clerigo like grain in that warm land of the tropics 
upon which he stood. Las Casas studied the 
principles of the matter : from the principles he 
turned to considering the facts about him ; and, 
with his candid mind thus fully aroused, he soon 
came to the conclusion that the system of reparti- 


not lost 
upon men. 

Las Casas 
of the 
evil of 



Las Casas 
resolves to 
give up 
his own 

mientos was iniquitous/ and that he must preach 
against it. 

What, then, must he do with his own Indians ? 
Alas, it was necessary to give them up ! Not 
that' he grudged giving them up for any worldly 
motive, but he felt that no one in Cuba would be 
as considerate towards them as he, even in the 
days of his darkness, had been ; and that they 
would be worked to death — as indeed they were. 
But still, the answer to all the sermons he might 
preach would be his own repartimiento of Indians. 
He resolved to give them up. 

Now, as Las Casas was not only the friend, 
but the partner, of Pedro de Renteria, this deter- 
mination on the part of the Clerigo was a matter 
which would affect the interests of his friend ; 
and, unluckily, Renteria happened to be absent 
from home at this time, having gone to Jamaica 

* " Pasados pues algunos dias en aquesta consideration, 
y oada dia mas j mas certificandola^or lo que leia cuanto at 
derecho, y via del hecho, aplicandolo uno al otro, determino 
en si mismo convencido de la misma verdad, ser injusto y 
tiranico todo cuanto cerca de los Indios en estas Indias se 
cometia." — Las Casas, Hist, de las Indias, MS., lib. iii. 
cap. 78. 


upon their joint affairs. Las Casas, however, 

went to the Governor Velazquez, and laid open 

his mind to him upon the subject of the reparti- He informs 

mientos, putting the matter boldly as it concerned Governor. 

his lordship's own salvation, as well as that of 

Las Casas and the rest of the Spaniards. The 

Clerigo added, that he must give up his own 

slaves, but wished that this determination might 

be kept secret till Pedro de Renteria should 


The Governor was greatly astonished ; for Las 
Casas, who, no doubt, took warmly in hand any- 
thing he did take up at all, passed for a man fond 
of gain, and very busy in the things of this world. 
Velazquez, in replying, besought the Clerigo to 
consider the matter well — to take fifteen days, 
indeed, to think of it — and to do nothing that he 
would repent of afterwards. Las Casas thanked 
his lordship for his kindness, but bade him count 
the fifteen days as already past; and added, that 
if he, Las Casas, were to repent, and were to ask 
for the Indians again, even with tears of blood, 
God would punish the Governor severely if he 
were to listen to such a request. Thus ended 
the interview ; and it is to the Governor's credit 



Las Casas 





that he ever afterwards held the Clerigo in greater 
esteem than before. 

Las Casas, however, did not long confine his 
efforts at conversion to the Governor alone, nor 
did he conceal his intention until his partner had 
returned home ; for, when preaching on the day 
of " The Assumption of Our Lady," he took occa- 
sion to mention publicly the conclusion he had 
come to as regards his own affairs, and also to 
urge upon his congregation in the strongest man- 
ner his conviction of the danger to their souls if 
they retained their repartimientos of Indians. All 
were amazed ; some were struck with compunc- 
tion; others were as much surprised to hear it 
called a sin to make use of the Indians as if they 
had been told it was sinful to make use of the 
beasts of the field. 

After Las Casas had uttered many exhortations 
both in public and in private, and had found that 
they were of little avail, he meditated how to go to 
the fountain head of authority, the King of Spain. 
The Clerigo's resources were exhausted: he had 
not a maravedi* or the means of getting one, ex- 

* Equal to about two-thirds of a farthing. 


cept by selling a mare which was worth a hundred Resolves 
1 J & to go to 

pesos.* Resolving, however, to go, he wrote to Spam. 
Renteria, telling him that business of importance 
was taking him to Castille, and that unless Ren- 
teria could return immediately, he, Las Casas, 
could not wait to see him — a thing, as he adds, 
not imaginable by the good Renteria, so firm was 
their friendship. 

It was a singular coincidence that, not long 
before this time, the services of the Church had 
also brought into active existence very serious A silent 


thoughts in the breast of Pedro de Renteria. There of thought 


may be a community of thought not expressed in the friends. 
language; and, perhaps, these two good men, 
while apparently engaged in their ordinary secular 
business, had, unknown to themselves, been com- 
municating to each other generous thoughts about 
their poor Indians, which had not hitherto been 
embodied in words. While Renteria was waiting 
in Jamaica for the despatch of his business, he went 
into a Franciscan monastery to spend his Lent in 
" retreat " (these pauses from the world are not to 
be despised !); and there thinking over the miseries 

* A peso was equivalent to four shillings and eight pence 



Las Casas 
and his 

of the Indians, the shape his thoughts had taken 
was, whether something for the children, at least, 
might not be done. Finally, he had come to the 
conclusion to ask the King's leave to found col- 
leges where he might collect the young Indians, 
and have them instructed and brought up. For 
this purpose, Renteria resolved to go to Spain 
himself, in order to obtain the King's sanction ; 
and, immediately after receiving the letter of the 
Clerigo, he hurried back to Cuba. 

As the meeting of the friends took place in 
the presence of others, and as Renteria was wel- 
comed back by the Governor in person, they had 
no opportunity for any explanation until they 
were alone together at night : then, in their dig- 
nified Spanish way, they agreed who should 
speak first, and after a friendly contention, the 
humble Renteria spoke first, which was the mark 
of the inferior. " I have thought sometimes," 
he said, " upon the miseries, sufferings, and evil 
life which these native people are leading ; and 
how from day to day they are all being con- 
sumed, as the people were in Hispaniola. It has 
appeared to me that it would be an act of piety 
to go and inform the King of this — for he cannot 


know anything of it — and to ask him that at the 
least he should give us his royal licence to found 
some colleges, where the children might be 
brought up and taught, and where we may shel- 
ter them from such violent and vehement destruc- 
tion." # Las Casas heard Renteria's words with 
astonishment and reverential joy, thinking it a 
sign of divine favour, that so good a man as Ren- 
teria should thus unexpectedly confirm his own 

When it was the Clerigo's turn to speak, he 
thus began — " You must know, sir and brother " 
(for these people did not omit the courtesy which, 
however varied in its form, affection should not 
presume to dispense with), " that my purpose is 
no other than to go and seek a remedy for these 
unhappy men " (the Indians). The Clerigo then 
gave a full account of what he had already 
thought and done in this matter, during Ren- 
teria's absence. His friend replied in all humi- They agree 
lity, that it was not for him to go, but for Las Casas 
Casas, who, as a lettered man (letrado), would to Spain. 
know better how to establish what he should 

* Las Casas, Hist, de las Indias, MS., lib. iii. cap. 79. 


urge. Renteria begged, therefore, that the stock 
and merchandize which he had just brought with 
him from Jamaica, and the farm, their joint pro- 
perty, might be turned into money to equip Las 
Casas for his journey and his stay at court ; 
and he added, " May God our Lord be He who 
may ever keep you in the way and defend you." 

The farm was sold, and in this manner Las 
Casas was provided for his journey. Bad as the 
world is said to be, there is always money forth- 
coming for any good purpose, when people really 
believe in the proposer. 

At this time Pedro de Cordova, the prelate of 

the Dominicans in the New World, sent over 

four brethren of his order from Hispaniola to 

First Domi- Cuba. They were very welcome to Las Casas, 

nicans in 

Cuba. as he was to them. They listened with interest 

to his account of the state of the Indians in 
Cuba ; and Brother Bernardo, the most eloquent 
and learned amongst them, preached to the same 
purpose and with fully as much animation, as 
the Clerigo himself had done. Their sermons 
terrified the hearers, but did not seem to change 
their way of proceeding. The Dominicans, ac- 


cordingly, resolved to send back one of their bro- 
therhood, Gutierrez de Ampudia, to Pedro de 
Cordova, to inform him of the state of things at 
Cuba. It was arranged that Gutierrez should 
accompany Las Casas, who, by giving out that 
he was going to Paris, to study there and take a 
degree, contrived to leave Cuba without attract- 
ing the notice of the Governor, who might, per- 
haps, have detained him, had his true purpose and 
destination been known. 

So Las Casas quitted the island of Cuba in Las Casas 

quits Cuba. 

company with Gutierrez de Ampudia and another 
Dominican, without being much observed by any 
one, or meeting with any hindrance. 

After their departure from the island, the 
cruelties of the Spaniards towards the Indians 
increased; and, as the Indians naturally enough 
sought for some refuge in flight, the Spaniards 
trained dogs to pursue them. The Indians then 

had recourse to suicide as a means .of escape, for Suicide 

they believed in a future state of being, where Tndians. 

ease and felicity, they thought, awaited them. 

Accordingly they put themselves to death, whole 

families doing so together, and villages inviting 

other villages to join them in their departure 


from a world that was no longer tolerable to 
them. Some hanged themselves ; others drank 
the poisonous juice of the Yuca. 

One pathetic and yet ludicrous occurrence is 
mentioned in connection with this practice of 
suicide amongst the Indians. A number of them 
belonging to one master had resolved to hang 
themselves, and so to escape from their labours 
and their sufferings. The master being made 
aware of their intention, came upon them just as 
they were about to carry it into effect. " Go 
seek me a rope, too," he exclaimed, " for I must 
hang myself with you." He then gave them to 
understand that he could not live without them, 
as they were so useful to him ; and that he must 
go where they were going. They, believing that 
they would not get rid of him even in a future 
state of existence, agreed to remain where they 
were ; and with sorrow laid aside their ropes to 
resume their kbours. 

Meanwhile, Las Casas and his companions 
were pursuing their journey, having arrived at 
the port of Hanaguana, in Hispaniola. Father' 
Gutierrez, unhappily, fell ill of a fever and died on 


the road ; but Las Casas reached St. Domingo in 
safety. On arriving there, he found that the 
Prelate of the Dominicans was absent, having just 
commenced a voyage for the purpose of founding 
monasteries in the Terra-firma, being accompanied 
not only by monks of his own order, but also by 
Franciscans, and by some monks from Picardy, 
who had lately come to the Indies. 

It happened that a great storm compelled the 
Prelate and his company to return to port ; and 
thus Las Casas was fortunate enough to obtain an 
interview with one of whom he ever speaks with 
great veneration, the Prelate of the Dominicans, 
Pedro de Cordova. 

This excellent monk received Las Casas very 
kindly, and applauded his purpose greatly, but at 
the same time gave but little hope of its being 
brought to a successful termination in King Fer- 
dinand's time, on account of the credit which, he 
said, the Bishop of Burgos and the Secretary, 
Lope Conchillos, had with the King, and their 
being entirely in favour of the system of reparti- 
mientos, and moreover possessing Indians them- 

The Clerigo, grieved but not dismayed at 

Las Casas 
at St. 

Las Casas 
and De 


these words, declared his intention to persevere, 

to the delight of Pedro de Cordova, who, as the 

Dominican monastery was very poor, and only 

partly built, resolved to send Antonio Montesino, 

one of his monks, in company with Las Casas to the 

King, to solicit alms for completing the building. 

Moreover, if any opportunity should offer, he was 

Casas to a ^ tne Clerigo i n his mission. And so, 

f mb s r ain * n September, 1515, Las Casas, Montesino, and 

Sept. loio. another brother embarked at St. Domingo for 


After their arrival at Seville, Montesino pre- 
Las Casas sented Las Casas to the Archbishop of Seville, 
Seville. 8 * -^ on Fray Diego de Deza, a prelate in great 
favour with King Ferdinand, who had been per- 
suading the King to come to his diocese, as being 
an excellent climate for the aged. This advice 
Ferdinand had listened to, and was now making 
his way from Burgos to the South of Spain. 
The Archbishop received Las Casas graciously, 
and furnished him with letters to the Kin^ and 
to some of the courtiers. Armed with these let- 
ters, the Clerigo continued his journey, and found 
the King at Plasencia, arriving there a few days 


before Christmas in the year 1515. Las Casas 
shunned the ministers Lope cle Conchillos and 
the Bishop of Burgos, knowing how prejudiced 
they were likely to be ; but he sought an inter- Las Casas 

T7- • • • 1 SeeS K' n O 

view with the King, and, obtaining it, spoke at Ferdi- 
large to the Monarch of the motives which had Dec. 1515, 
brought him to Spain. He had come, he said, to 
inform his Highness of the wrongs and sufferings 
of the Indians, and of how they died without a 
knowledge of the Faith and without the Sacra- 
ments, of the ruin of the country, of the diminu- 
tion of the revenue ; and he concluded by saying, 
that as these things concerned both the King's 
conscience and the welfare of his realm, and as to 
be understood they must be stated in detail, he 
begged for another and a long audience. Fer- 
dinand, now an old and ailing man, whose death 
was near at hand, did not deny Las Casas the 
second audience he asked for, but said he would 
willingly hear him some day during the Christmas 

In the mean time, Las Casas poured his com- 
plaints against the King's ministers, and his nar- Las Casas 

ains the 



rative of the wrongs of the Indians, into the ears Km< 
of the King's Confessor, Tomas de Matienzo, 



who, repeating them to the King, received orders 
to tell Las Casas to go to Seville and wait there 
for the King's coming (Ferdinand was about to 
set off immediately), when he. would give him a 
long audience, and provide a remedy for the evils 
he complained of. The Confessor advised Las 
Casas to see the Bishop of Burgos,* who had the 
chief management of Indian affairs, and also Con- 

* The Bishop of Burgos was one of those ready, bold, 
and dexterous men, with a great reputation for fidelity, who 
are such favourites with princes. He went, through so 
many stages of preferment, that it is sometimes difficult to 
trace him ; and the student of early American history will 
have a bad opinion of many Spanish bishops, if he does not 
discover that it is Bishop Fonseca who re-appears under 
various designations. He held successively the Arch- 
diaconate of Seville, the Bishoprics of Badajoz, Cordova, 
Palencia, and Conde, the Archbishopric of Rosano (in 
Italy), with the Bishopric of Burgos, besides the office of 
Capellan mayor to Isabella, and afterwards to Ferdinand. 

The Indies had a narrow escape of having him for their 
Patriarch. In the year 1513, Ferdinand instructed his 
ambassador at Rome to apply for the institution of a uni- 
versal patriarchate of the Indies to be given to Archbishop 

What answer the Pope gave to this application does not 
appear ; but it is at any rate satisfactory to find that Bishop 
Fonseca was not appointed Patriarch of the Indies. 


chillos, for, as he observed, the matter would 
ultimately have to come into their hands; and, 
perhaps, when they had heard all the miseries 
and evils which the Clerigo could tell them, they 
would soften. Las Casas, to show that he was 
not obstinate, sought out these ministers, and 
submitted his views and his information to them. 
Conchillos received the Clerigo with the utmost 
courtesy and kindness, and seems to have listened 
a little to what Las Casas had to tell him: the 
Bishop, on the contrary, was very rough. Las interview 
Casas finished his audience with the Bishop by Las Casas 
informing him how seven thousand children had Bishop of 
perished in three months ; * and, as the Clerigo 
went on detailing the account of the death of 
these children, the ungodly Bishop broke in with 
these words, " Look you, what a droll fool ; what 
is this to me, and what is it to the King?" To 
which Las Casas replied : " Is it nothing to your 
Lordship, or to the King, that all these souls 
should perish ? Oh great and eternal God ! And 
to whom then is it of any concern ? " And, having 
said these words, he took his leave. 

* I do not know to what transaction he alludes. 




Considering the number of excellent churchmen 
whose conduct comes out nobly in the discovery 
and colonization of the Indies, it is not surprising 
that we should meet with one bad bishop ; but it is 
almost heartbreaking to consider, that it is the one 
who could have done more than all the rest to 
redress the wrongs of the Indians, and to recover 
affairs in the New World. Let men in power 
see what one bad appointment may do ! 
LasCasas Las Casas soon after left the court for Seville, 

departs for 

Seville. where almost the first thing he heard of on his 

arrival, was the death of the King, which took 
place at Madrigal ejos, a little village on the road 
to Seville, on the 23rd of January, 1516. 


Las Casas sees the Cardinal Ximenes — He is appointed to go 
out and inquire into the wrongs of the Indians, with the 
Jeronimite Fathers, and made " Protector of the Indians" — 
He returns to Spain. 

*S soon as Las Casas heard of the King's 
death, he prepared to go to Flanders, to 
produce what impression he could upon 
the new King; but, previously to taking this 
step, he went to Madrid, to lay his statement of 
the wrongs of the Indians before the Cardinal- 
Governor Ximenes, and the Ambassador Adrian. 
They were governing conjointly, Ximenes having 
been appointed regent by Ferdinand during the 
minority of Charles the Fifth, and Adrian of 
Utrecht (who had been Charles's tutor) having 
been instructed by the young King to act in 
concert with the Cardinal. 


Las Casas resolved to let them know of his in- 
tended journey, and to tell them that if they 
could remedy the evils he complained of he would 
stay with them; if not, he would go on to 

He drew up his statement in Latin, and 
began by laying it before Adrian. That good 
man was horrified at what he read ; and without 
delay he went into the apartment of the Cardinal 
(for the two great men were lodged in the same 
building), to ask him if such things could be. 
The result of the conference was, that Las 
Las Casas Casas was informed by Ximenes that he need not 


Ximenes. proceed to Flanders, but that a remedy for the 
evils he spoke of should be found there, at 

The associates whom the Cardinal took into 
council, to hear what Las Casas had to tell of 
Indian aifairs, were the Ambassador Adrian, the 
Licentiate Zapata, Dr. Caravajal, Dr. Palacios 
Rubios, and the Bishop of Avila. These impor- 
tant personages summoned the Clerigo many 
times before them, and heard what he had to 
say. In the course of these hearings a curious 
circumstance took place, which is well worth re- 


cording. During one of these juntas* the cardinal 
ordered that the laws of Burgos (the last laws 
made touching the Indians) should be read. It 
is a slight circumstance, but serves to give some 
indication of the excellence of the Cardinal as a 
man of business and a member of a council, that 
he should wish to know exactly where the matter 
was, and what they were to start from. The Clerk 
of the Junta, an old retainer of Conchillos, when A junta 

to hear 

he came to the law about giving a pound of LasCasas. 
meat to the Indians on Sundays and feastdays, 
probably thinking that this in some way 
touched himself or his friends, read it wrongly. 
Las Casas, who knew the laws almost by heart, 
at onCe exclaimed, " The law does not say that." 
The Cardinal bade the clerk read it again. He 
gave the same reading. Las Casas said again, 
" That law says no such thing." The Cardinal, 
annoyed at these interruptions, exclaimed, " Be 
silent, or look to what you say." But Las Casas 
was not to be silenced by fear, when he knew 
himself to be in the right. (( Your Lordship may 
order my head to be cut off," he exclaimed, " if 

* A junta was a council. 



Las Casas 
and Dr. Pa- 
lacios to 
draw up 
a plan. 

-what the clerk reads is what the law says." Some 
members of the Council took the papers from the 
clerk's hands, and found that Las Casas was 
right. " You may imagine," he adds, " that 
that clerk (whose name, for his honour's sake, I 
will not mention) wished that he had not been 
born, so that he might not have met with the 
confusion of face he then met with." Las 
Casas concludes by remarking, " that the Clerigo 
lost nothing of the regard which the Cardinal 
had for him, and the credit which he gave to 

The result of these meetings was, that the 
Cardinal appointed Las Casas and Dr. Palacios 
Rubios, who had all along shown great interest 
in favour of the Indians, to draw up a plan for 
securing their liberty and arranging their govern- 
ment. At the request of Las Casas, Antonio 
Montesino was afterwards added to this com- 
mittee. Their way of proceeding was as follows. 
Las Casas, as the more experienced in the matter, 
made the rough draft of any proposition, which 
he then showed to Antonio Montesino, who gene- 
rally approved it, then to the doctor, who did the 
same, except that he perhaps added to it, and put 
it in official language. It was then taken to the 


Cardinal and the Ambassador; and council held 
upon it. 

The thing to be done and the mode of doing it 
were thus after much labour arrived at : the legis- 
lation was accordingly complete. And now the 
persons who were to have the great charge of 
administering the law had to be sought out. The 
Cardinal bade Las Casas find these persons ; but 
the Clerigo, from his absence for so long a time 
from Castille, did not know fit persons, and 
begged to give the commission back into the 
Cardinal's hands, presenting at the same time a 
memorial in which he stated what in his opinion 
were the qualifications for the office in question. 
The Cardinal, smiling, observed to Las Casas, 
" Well, Father, we have some good persons." 

The Cardinal resolved to look for his men Jeronimites 

chosen to 

amongst the Jeronimite monks, on account of administer 

the law. 

their not being mixed up with the contention that 
had already taken place between the Franciscans 
and Dominicans touching the fitness of the In- 
dians for freedom. Ximenes, accordingly, wrote 
to that effect to the General of the Order, who 
called a chapter, when twelve of the brethren were 
named, and a deputation of four priors was sent to 
the Cardinal to inform him of the nomination. 



Four of 
their priors 
come to 

ings at the 

Las Casas, who was naturally anxious about 
the answer of the Jeronimites, went one Sunday 
morning to hear mass at their convent near to 
Madrid. There he found a venerable man pray- 
ing in the cloister : upon asking him whether 
there was any reply to the Cardinal's missive, 
the old man told him, that he was one of the 
priors who had brought an answer, that they 
arrived last night, and that the Cardinal, having 
been made aware of their arrival, was to come to 
the convent that day. 

Accordingly, in the course of the day, the Car- 
dinal and Adrian came with a cavalcade of cour- 
tiers to the convent. The monks received the 
Junta in the sacristy, the main body of the 
courtiers remaining outside in the choir ; amongst 
them, doubtless to his no small chagrin, the 
Bishop of Burgos, long accustomed to direct 
Indian affairs, but now of no authority in them. 

The Cardinal, after thanking the Order for the 
tenor of their reply, and magnifying the work in 
hand, desired Las Casas to be called for, who, 
with great delight, walked through the assembled 
courtiers, much regarded by them, but most of 
all, as he conjectures, by the Bishop of Burgos. 


Entering the sacristy, Las Casas knelt down 
before the Cardinal, who told him to thank God 
that the desires which God had given him were 
in the way of being accomplished. The Cardinal 
then informed him that the priors had brought 
twelve names of persons who might be chosen for 
the work, but that three would suffice. His 
Eminence added, that this night Las Casas should Las Casas 


have letters of credit to the General of the Jero- letters of 

credit to 

nimites and money for his journey, and that he the Jeroni- 

mite Gene- 
was to go and confer with that Prelate about the ral. 

choice of the three, informing the General of the 
requisite qualities for the office in question. Las 
Casas was then to bring to court the first Jeroni- 
mite of the chosen three whom he should find 
ready to accompany him. The despatches should 
thereupon be prepared, after which he might at 
once set off with them * for Seville. 

We may observe throughout that nothing lin- 
gers in the Cardinal's hands. Commonplace 
statesmen live by delay, believe in it, hope in it, 

* " Y habido el primero que de los tres mas presto hal- 
laredes, venios con el a esta Corte, y hacerse han los Des- 
pachos, y de camino para Sevilla los podeis despues llevar." 
— Las Casas, Hist, de las Indias, MS., lib. iii. cap. 85. 


pray to it : but his Eminence worked as a man 
who knew that the night was coming, " in which 
no man can work." 

Las Casas, almost in tears with joy, poured 
out his thanks and blessings on the Cardinal, and 
concluded by saying, that the money was not 
necessary, for that he had enough to sustain him 
in this business. The Cardinal smiled, and said, 
" Go to, Father, I am richer than you are." 
(Anda, Padre, que yo soy mas rico que vos). And 
then Las Casas went out, " the Cardinal saying 
many favourable things of some one who shall be 

The Clerigo received his letters, conferred with 
the General of the Order of St. Jerome, and three 
brethren were chosen. Their names were Luis 
de Figueroa, Prior of La Mejorada ; Alonso de 
Santo Domingo, Prior of the Convent of Ortega ; 
and Bernardino Manzanedo. 
TheJeroni- Las Casas brought with him Bernardino Man- 
Madrid, zanedo to Madrid ; the other two joined him 
there, and they all lived with him at his inn. 

* "Diciendo multa favorabilia de Johanne." — Las 
Casas, Hist, de las Indicts, MS., lib. iii. cap. 85. 


Afterwards, however, they went to a hospital of 
their own Order in that city. "While staying 
there, they were waylaid, so to speak, by the 
agents for the Spanish colonists, who told them 
all manner of things against the Indians, and 
spoke ill of Las Casas; and, in the end, suc- 
ceeded, as he thinks, in prejudicing the minds of 
the Fathers to that extent, that even before they 
set out, Las Casas and Dr. Palacios Rubios began 
to think that no good would come of this mission, 
which promised at the first so well. 

The preparations, however, for their departure 
went on, and their orders and instructions were 
made ready. The first order was a cedula, to the 
effect that, on their arrival at St. Domingo, they 
should take away all the Indians belonging to 
members of the Council, or to any other absentees. 
The second was, that they should also deprive 
the judges and officers in the Indies of their 
Indians. The third was, that they should hold 
a court of impeachment upon all the judges and 
other officers in the colony, " who had lived, as 
the saying is, ' as Moors without a king.' " 

Then came the main body of instructions, 
which I will not quote here, and concerning 


which it is sufficient to say that Las Casas was 
dissatisfied with many of them, and especially 
with regard to the compulsory * working at the 
mines, and the payment to be demanded from the 
Indians for whatever cattle and implements were 
to be furnished them. He was also averse to the 
provision for the capture of the Caribs, and 
declared that all these things were inserted con- 
trary to his wishes. I hardly see how, without 
prophetic vision, any body of statesmen of that 
time, who had not themselves been in the Indies, 
could have been wise and foreseeing enough to 
leave the Indians alone in their settlements, not 
Las Casas' compelling them to go to the mines, but looking 
and rUCt0nS forward to the time when they would become 
civilized and taxable communities. 

* The words of Las Casas on this subject, though some- 
what unpractical, are very remarkable for the noble spirit 
they indicate : — " Y solo el pensamiento de que habian por 
fuerza de andar en las Minas la tercera parte bastaba para 
del todo acaballos. Manifiesto es que se les habia de dar 
las Haciendas y los Ganados y lo demas de valde para que 
comenzaran a respirar y saber que cosa era Libertad (sic 
in MS.), 6 a costa del Rey, o de los Espanoles que de ellos 
con tanto riesgo de sus vidas se habian aprovechado." — 
Las Casas, Hist, de las Indias, MS., lib. iii. cap. 88. 





The despatches for the Jeronimite Fathers 
being now concluded, other matters connected 
with this great proposed reform were brought to 
a close. Las Casas was by a cedula formally 
appointed to advise and inform the Jeronimite 
Fathers, to be in correspondence with the govern- 
ment, and generally to take such steps in the 
matter as might be for the service of God and 
their Highnesses. All authorities were to abet 
him in the same. He was also named " Protector Las Casas 


of the Indians," with a salary of a hundred pesos Protector 

of the 

of gold, which he himself observes, " was then not Indians, 
little, as that hell of Peru " (infierno dei Peru) 
" had not been discovered, which, with its multi- 
tude of quintals of gold, has impoverished and 
destroyed Spain." These are remarkable words 
for that time. 

It now only remained that the legal part of 
the reform contemplated by Ximenes should be 
provided for. To ensure this, the Cardinal chose 
a lawyer of repute named Zuazo, giving him very 
large powers. He was to take a residencia* of 

* To take a residencia was equivalent to making an in- 
quiry concerning, or calling to account, a public officer. 



all the Judges in the Indies, and what was of 
more importance, his decisions were not to be 
appealed against. The Licentiate Zapata and 
Dr. Caravajal called these powers exorbitant, and 
refused to give their signature, which was neces- 
sary, to the instructions. This led to much delay. 
Zuazo threatened to return to Valladolid, saying, 
if he once returned to his college, no one should 
get him out of it again. Upon this Las Casas 
hurried off to the Cardinal, who supposed that 
Zuazo had already gone upon his mission, when 
the Clerigo informed his Eminence of the delay 
and the cause of it. The Cardinal, who, as Las 
Casas then observes, was not a man to be played 
with (ninguno con el se lurlaba), sent for the 
Licentiate Zapata and Dr. Caravajal, and bade 
them in his presence sign all the provisions of the 
powers for Zuazo : which they did, putting, how- 
ever, a certain private mark to their signatures, 
which was to denote what they intended after- 
wards to say, namely, that the Cardinal had 
forced them to sign. 

At last, all was ready for these seeds of well- 
devised legislation to be taken out and sown in 
the Indies. Las Casas went to take leave of 


Ximenes and to kiss hands. He could not on 
this occasion refrain from uttering his mind to 
the Cardinal, telling him that the Jeronimite 
Fathers would do no good thing, and informing Las Casas 

takes leave 

him of their interviews with the agents from the of the 


colonies. It moves our pity to think that the 
sick old man, wearied enough with rapacious 
Flemish courtiers and untameable Spanish gran- 
dees, should now be told, after he had given so 
much time and attention to this business of the 
Indies, that the mission would do no good. Well 
may Las Casas add, that the Cardinal seemed 
struck with alarm ; and that, after a short time, 
he said, " Whom then can we trust ? You are 
going there : be watchful for all." Upon this, 
after receiving the Cardinal's benediction, Las 
Casas left for Seville. 

The Jeronimite Fathers and the Clerigo then 
commenced their voyage, — in different vessels, 
however, for probably being somewhat tired of his 
discourses, and perhaps not wishing to alarm the 
colonists more than could be helped by being seen 
in such close contact with one so odious to them 
as Las Casas, the Fathers had contrived on som« 



pretext to prevent his going with them, though 

he much wished it ; and when they arrived at St. 

TheJero- Domingo, they seemed inclined there, too, to 


arrive take a separate course from what he thought 

at St. . L t ° 

Domingo, right. He speaks of them as gained over bv the 

Dec. 1516. ° . . 

shrewd official men they fell amongst, such as the 
Treasurer Pasamonte. In discourse with Las 
Casas, the Fathers began, he says, to gild over 
and excuse the inhumanity of the colonists ; and 
what was a shameful defect in their mode of pro- 
ceeding according to his view of the case, they 
did not put in execution the charge they had 
received, to take away the Indians from the 
Spanish Judges and men in office, though they 
deprived the absentees of their Indians. 

In three months' time Zuazo arrived. Las 
Casas now resolved on a bold, perhaps we may 
say, a violent step, though if we had been eye- 
witnesses of the cruelties that he had seen, our 
indignation, like his, might not always have been 
Las Casas amenable to prudence. He resolved, himself, to 
the Judges, impeach the Judges.* To use his own phrase, 
he brought against them a tremendous accusation 

* The " Jueces de apelacion." 


(jpusoles una terrible acusacion), both in respect 
to their conduct in bringing Indians from the 
Lucayan islands, and also in reference to the 
infamous proceedings connected with an incident 
in Cumana, where two poor Dominicans were left 
to be murdered by the natives. Certainly, if any 
charges were to be made against these Judges, it 
must be admitted that the subjects of accusation 
were well chosen. 

The Jeronimite Fathers were much grieved at 
this bold step being taken by Las Casas. They 
evidently wished to manage things quietly ; and 
were proceeding mainly with the second class of 
remedies for the Indians,(giving them in reparti- 
miento to such of the colonists as they thought 
well of, and publishing the orders for ameliorating 
the condition of the subject people. The Fathers 
seem on the whole to have made great efforts to 
do good, which must not pass without due recog- 
nition. I think with Las Casas, that if they had 
ventured to adopt the scheme, which he, Dr. 
Palacios Kubios, and Antonio Montesino, had 
planned (the main points of which were, the doing 
away with the system of repartirnientos and com- 
pulsory working at the mines), it would have 


The author 
hazards a 

Las Casas 
the Jero- 

been better ; and there is no doubt that, while 
Ximenes lived, they would have had a sufficiently 
powerful protector to enable them to carry out 
such a measure. But, though not determined 
enough to carry out such a bold undertaking, 
which few men, indeed, would have had courage 
for, and leaving many of the colonists in pos- 
session of their Indians, they still made great 
efforts to carry out the second class of measures 
for the relief of the Indians and the benefit of 
the colony. 

Las Casas may complain of the Jeronimites, 
but I have no doubt they were more vigorous, 
and aimed at better purposes than almost any 
mere official persons would have done : and their 
conduct illustrates to my mind what I have long 
thought about government, — that there are occa- 
sions when those do best in it who are not strictly 
bred up for it, and who are not, therefore, likely 
to have the vigour and force of their natures en- 
crusted with routine and deadened by a slavish 
belief in the incomplete traditions of the past. 

Such measured proceedings as the Jeronimite 
Fathers at first adopted did not accord with the 
temperament of Las Casas ; neither were they 


such remedies as the fearful nature of the disease 
demanded. Moreover, in addition to his dis- 
approval of their measures, he distrusted the men 
themselves. He states that they had relations 
whom they wished to benefit in the island of 
Hispaniola, but as they feared him too much to 
do so there, they recommended these relations to 
Diego Velazquez, the Governor of Cuba ; and 
Las Casas observed, that in a letter which he 
happened to see when they were about to close 
it, they signed themselves, " Chaplains to Your 
Honour " ( Capellanes de Vuestra Merced), a mode 
of describing themselves which seemed to him 
conclusive of the position the Fathers were going 
to take up with regard to this Governor. The 
Protector of the Indians, therefore, resolved to 
return to Castille and to appeal against the 
Fathers : and in this resolve he was strengthened 
by the opinion of Zuazo and of Pedro de Cordova, 
who still continued to be the head of the Domini- 
can Order in those parts. 

The Fathers were much disconcerted when 
they heard of the intention of Las Casas to return 
to court, saying that he was a torch that would 
set everything in a flame, and they had thoughts 



Las Casas 
to Spain, 


of stopping him; but this was not within the 
scope of their powers. What they could do, and 
what they afterwards did, was to send one of their 
own body to court, to make representations on 
their behalf. 

Meanwhile the Clerigo left St. Domingo in 
May, 1517, and in July reached Aranda on the 
Douro, where he found Cardinal Ximenes at the 
point of death. Las Casas seems to have been 
fated to appear to great personages a few days 
before their death. This time, though, whatever 
complaints he might have been able to make of 
the administration of Indian affairs, he had no- 
thing to say which could wound the conscience 
of the dying statesman. The Clerigo's letters to 
Ximenes had, he says, been intercepted, and, in 
the little that passed between them then, the 
Protector of the Indians found the Cardinal ill- 
informed of what had occurred in Hispaniola. 


Las Casas is introduced to the Grand Chancellor, and lays 
his Emigration Scheme before the King — His Plans are 
checked by the Death of the Chancellor — He holds a Con- 
troversy with the Bishop of Burgos. 

HOSE who have never lived at courts 
have been very apt to magnify the vice 
and treachery of such places, just as 
those who dwell in the country are prone to be- 
lieve in the singular wickedness of towns; but, 
after all, Virtue, like the rest of us, being some- 
times very weary of dulness, quits groves and 
primeval settlements, to take up her abode with 
polished people. And, certainly, whenever the 
course of this narrative conducts us to the court 
of Spain, even the most cursory reader cannot 
fail to have the pleasure of observing that there 
was at least sympathy for the injured, and gene- 


Always rally, in some quarter or other, an earnest en- 

sorne • • 

redress deavour to redress the wrong, which stand in 

at the 

court of striking and favourable contrast with the terrible 


oppressions and misdeeds that meet his eyes at 
every turn in the pages which record the pro- 
ceedings of the Spanish colonists. It is like 
coming into daylight again after sudden darkness. 
I cannot illustrate this contrast better than by 
an incident which occurred in Trinidad about 
this time, and which will serve to show what 
enormities were occasionally perpetrated in the 
West Indies, even under the supervision of 
the Jeronimite Fathers. Such a narrative, 
moreover, will give us a deeper interest in the 
efforts of the Protector of the Indians, will 
explain his vehemence, and tend to justify his 

Here, too, I must premise that Las Casas, 
according to my observation of his writings and 
character, may be thoroughly trusted whenever 
Accuracy of he is speaking of things of which he has com- 
petent knowledge. Seeing his vehemence, an 
ordinary observer might be apt to doubt his 
accuracy, though there has never been a greater 
mistake, or a much more common one, than to 


confound vehemence with inaccuracy. Far from 
being an inaccurate man, he was studiously accu- 
rate, which is to be seen throughout his history 
in all manner of little things. His countenance,* His 

• portrait 

too, though benevolence may be its chief cha- 
racteristic, gives strong indications of acuteness, 
firmness, and refinement, and is rather the face of 
a lawyer or a statesman than of an ecclesiastic. 
Indeed he was not especially fitted for an eccle- 
siastic,! excepting in so far as a man of the 
world, if essentially a good man, may make an 
excellent ecclesiastic, as often happens. He was, 
moreover, a gentleman, and in his history shows 
delicacy and kindness in suppressing names where 
there is no occasion to mention them, and where 
the bringing persons forward would give them or 
their descendants unnecessary pain. 

The following narrative of what occurred at 

* The portrait of Las Casas is to be seen, if I recollect 
rightly, in a private collection at Seville. 

f In a very naive way he lets you see somehow or other 
in his history, that it was not so much care for the Faith, 
though he was a deeply religious man, as natural pity that 
led him to espouse the cause of the Indians, which, especially 
in those times, would have been thought so much the inferior- 


Juan Trinidad, to hear which we are going to quit the 


story. court of Spain for a time, is given on the authority 

of Las Casas. 

There was a certain man named Juan Bono, 
and he was employed by the members of the 
audiencia of St. Domingo to go and obtain 
Indians. He and his men, to the number of 
fifty or sixty, landed on the island of Trinidad. 
Now the Indians of Trinidad were a mild, 
loving, credulous race, the enemies of the Caribs 
who ate human flesh. On Juan Bodo's land- 
ing, the Indians, armed with bows and arrows, 
went to meet the Spaniards, and to ask them 
who they were, and what they wanted. Juan 
Bono replied, that his crew were good and 
peaceful people, who had come to live with the 
Indians ; upon which, as the commencement of 
good fellowship, the natives offered to build 
houses for the Spaniards. The Spanish captain 
expressed a wish to have one large house built. 
The accommodating Indians set about building 
it. It was to be in the form of a bell, and to be 
large enough for a hundred persons to live in. 
On any great occasion it would hold many more. 
Every day, while this house was being built, 


the Spaniards were fed with fish, bread, and fruit Juan 


by their good-natured hosts. Juan Bono was story. 
very anxious to see the roof on, and the Indians 
continued to work at the building with alacrity. 
At last it was completed, being two stories high, 
and so constructed that those within could not see 
those without. Upon a certain day Juan Bono 
collected the Indians together, men, women, and 
children, in the building, to see, as he told them, 
" what was to be done." Whether they thought 
they were coming to some festival, or that they 
were to do something more for the great house, 
does not appear. However, there they all were, 
four hundred of them, looking with much delight 
at their own handiwork. Meanwhile, Juan Bono 
brought his men round the building, with drawn 
swords in their hands: then, having thoroughly 
entrapped his Indian friends, he entered with a 
party of armed men, and bade the Indians keep 
still, or he would kill them. They did not listen 
to him, but rushed against the door. A horrible 
massacre ensued. Some of the Indians forced 
their way out, but many of them, stupified at 
what they saw, and losing heart, were captured 
and bound. A hundred, however, escaped, and, 


Juan snatching up their arms, assembled in one of 

Bono's . 

story. their own houses, and prepared to defend them- 

selves. Juan Bono summoned them to sur- 
render : they would not hear of it ; and then, as 
Las Casas says, " he resolved to pay them com- 
pletely for the hospitality and kind treatment he 
had received," and so, setting fire to the house, the 
whole hundred men, together with some women 
and children, were burnt alive. The Spanish 
captain and his men retired to the ships with their 
captives: and his vessel happening to touch at 
Porto Rico when the Jeronimite Fathers were 
there, gave occasion to Las Casas to complain of 

His this proceeding to the Fathers, who, however, 

depth of . 

ingratitude, did nothing in the way of remedy or punish- 
ment. The reader will be surprised to hear the 
Clerigo's authority for this deplorable narrative. 
It is Juan Bono himself. " From his own mouth 
I heard that which I write. Juan Bono acknow- 
ledged that never in hib life had he met with the 
kindness of father and mother but in the island 
of Trinidad. 'Well, then, man of perdition, 
why did you reward them with such ungrateful 
wickedness and cruelty?' ' On my faith, Padre, 
because they (he meant the auditors) gave me for 


destruction (he meant instruction) to take them in 
peace if I could not by war.' " 

Such were the transactions which Las Casas 
must have had in his mind when he was pleading 
the cause of the Indians at the court of Spain ; 
and that man would have been more than mortal, 
who, brooding over these things, and struggling 
to find a remedy for them, was always temperate 
in his language and courtly in his demeanour. 
I feel confident that St. Paul would not have 
been so. 

Returning now to the court of Spain, I will Spanish 


recount what took place immediately after the ment 

on the 

death of the great Cardinal. On that event the death of 


administration of the affairs of Spain fell inevitably 
into much confusion. The King, as mentioned 
before, was only sixteen years old; and it could 
not be expected that he was yet to have much 
real weight in affairs. It has been a common 
saying, that he did not give promise, at this period 
of his life, of the sagacity which he afterwards 
manifested. This is a mistake. The truth is, Charles 

the Fifth 

that Charles was as a boy what he turned out to as a boy. 
be as a man — grave, undemonstrative, cautious, 


thoughtful, valiant. No doubt he was very ob- 
servant ; and I think it is manifest that the infor- 
mation he now obtained about Indian affairs, 
swayed him throughout his reign, and influenced 
him in the advice he gave in a great matter, 
connected with the government of the Spanish 
colonies, which occurred many years after, at a 
period when he had withdrawn for the most part 
from all human affairs. At this time of his life 
he trusted to his councillors, like a sensible boy, 
was very constant to them, and exceedingly liberal 
to all persons about him. 

The two men who had now the supreme 
authority in Spain, were Chievres,* the King's 
former Governor, and his present Lord Chamber- 
lain — and the Grand Chancellor, Jean Salvage, 
Chievres called by the Spaniards Selvagius. The Chan- 
gius rule cellor settled all matters connected with jus- 
tice ; the other, those connected with patronage. 
Las Casas speaks well of the disposition of the 
Flemings, especially of their humanity; and he 

* He is called familiarly Chievres by writers of that 
period ; but his name was William de Croy, Lord of 
Chievres, in Hainault, afterwards Marquis or Duke of 



seems to think that the Chancellor was an upright 

These ministers were not without their especial Perplexity 
perplexities. They did not know whom to trust, Flemings. 
or what to do : and they were too cautious to 
act without sufficient knowledge. They did not 
even know the language of the country they 
governed. The King himself was busy learning 
it. In this state of things, the public business 

The affairs of the Indies, however, gained 
much more attention than might have been ex- 
pected at this juncture. It happened thus: as 
Las Casas was at St. Domingo, on his way to 
appeal against the proceedings of the Jeroni- 
mite Fathers, he had seen those Franciscan monks 
from Picardy, who had now been some time in 
the island, and, as the reader may remember, 
had formed part of Pedro de Cordova's company, 
when he set out for the Terra-firma. These 
monks, with others, had signed letters of recom- 
mendation in favour of Las Casas, and by good Las Casas 
fortune some of the foreign monks were known known to 
to the Grand Chancellor, and their signatures Chancellor. 



The Chan- 
cellor and 
Las Casas 
for the 

proved a favourable introduction for the Protector 
of the Indians. He soon enlarged the advantages 
arising from this introduction ; and at last be- 
came on such terms with the Chancellor, that this 
great functionary used to give Las Casas all the 
letters and memorials from the colonists or their 
representatives, and the Clerigo then turned them 
into Latin, and made his remarks upon them, 
showing what was true and what was false, or 
wherein he approved, or dissented from, the views 
of the writer. Finally, the Grand Chancellor 
spoke of Las Casas to the King, and received his 
Highness's commands that they two should con- 
sult together, and provide a remedy for the bad 
government of the Indies.* 

Again, therefore, great hopes might naturally 
be entertained that something effectual would 
now be done on behalf of the Indians. Las Casas 
prepared his memorials, taking for his basis the 
plan which the Jeronimites had carried out to 
Hispaniola, and which by this time they had 
partially acted upon. He added, however, some 

* "Dominus noster jubet quod vos et ego appoDaraus 
reinedia Indis — faciatis vestra memorialia." — Las Casas, 
Hist, de las Indias, MS., lib. iii. cap. 99. 


other things; amongst them, that of securing to 
the Indians their entire liberty. And he provided 
a scheme for furnishing Hispaniola with labourers 
from the mother country. 

The outline of this scheme was as follows: — 
The King was to give to every labourer willing to Proposed 

TT . .,,.,.. -, , emigration 

emigrate to Hispaniola his living during the from Spain. 

journey from his place of abode to Seville, at the 

rate of half a real a day throughout the journey, 

for great and small, child and parent. At Seville 

the emigrants were to be lodged in the Casa de 

la Contratacion (the India House), and were to 

have from eleven to thirteen maravedis a day. 

From thence they were to have a free passage to 

Hispaniola, and to be provided with food for a 

year.* And if the climate " should try them so 

* " La orden de la poblacion della hizo de esta manera ; 
que el Rey diese a cada labrador que quisiese venir a poblar 
en ella desde que partiese de su poblacion hasta Sevilla de 
comer, para lo qual se senald a cada persona chico con 
grande medio real cada dia ; y en Sevilla se les diese posada 
en la casa de la Contratacion, y once a trece maravedises 
para comer cada dia, de manera que tanto se dava al nino 
de teta, como a sus Padres. 

" De alii pasage y matalotage hasta esta Isla, y en ella un 
ano de comer hasta que ellos lo tuviesen de suyo. Y si la 
tierra los probase tanto que no estubiesen para trabajar 



much/' that at the expiration of this year they 
should not be able to work for themselves, the 
King was to continue to maintain them, but this 
extra maintenance was to be put down to the 
account of the emigrants, as a loan which they 
were to repay. The King was to give them lands 
(his own lands), furnish them with ploughshares 
and spades, and provide medicines for them. 
Lastly, whatever rights and profits accrued from 
their holdings were to become hereditary. This 
was certainly a most liberal plan of emigration. 
And, in addition, there were other privileges held 
out as inducements to these labourers. 

to import 
by Las 

In connection with the above scheme, Las 
Casas, unfortunately for his reputation in after 
ages, added another provision, namely, that each 
Spanish resident in the island should have licence 
to import a dozen negro slaves. 

The origin of this suggestion was, as he 
informs us, that the colonists had told him, that 

mas tiempo de un aiio, que lo que demas de un ano que el 
Rey les diese, fuese prestado para que se lo pagase quando 
pudiese." — Las Casas, Hist, de las Indias, MS., lib. iii. 
.cap. 10. 


if licence were given them to import a dozen 

negro slaves each, they, the colonists, would 

then set free the Indians. And so, recollecting 

that statement of the colonists, he added this 

provision. Las Casas, writing his history in He after- 
i«ii c rr\ wards owns 

his old age, thus frankly owns his error : " This his error, 
advice, that licence should be given to bring 
negro slaves to these lands, the Clerigo Casas first 
gave, not considering the injustice with which 
the Portuguese take them, and make them slaves ; 
which advice, after he had apprehended the nature 
of the thing, he would not have given for all he 
had in the world. For he always held that they 
had been made slaves unjustly and tyrannically ; 
for the same reason holds good of them as of the 
Indians."* The /above confession is delicately 
and truthfully worded — " not considering " — he 
does not say, not being aware of; but, though it 

* " Este aviso de que se diese licencia para traer esclavos 
negros a estas tierras ; dio primero el Clerigo Casas, no ad- 
virtiendo la injusticia con que los Portugueses los toman y 
hacen esclavos ; el qual despues de que cayd en ello no lo 
diera por quanto habia en el mundo. Porque siempre los 
tuvo por injusta y tiranicamente hechos esclavos : porque 
la misma razon es de ellos que de los Indios." — Las Casas, 
Hist, de las Lidias, MS., lib. iii. cap. 101. 



slavery not 
into the 
Indies by- 
Las Casas. 

The Jero- 
give the 
advice as 
Las Casas. 

was a matter known to him, his moral sense was 
not watchful, as it were, about it. We must be 
careful not to press the admissions of a generous 
mind too far, or to exaggerate the importance of 
the suggestion of Las Casas. 

It would be quite erroneous to look upon this 
suggestion as being the introduction of negro 
slavery. From the earliest times of the discovery 
of America, negroes had been sent there ; and the 
young King Charles had, while in Flanders, granted 
licences to his courtiers for the importation of ne- 
groes into Hispaniola. But, what is of more signi- 
ficance, and what it is strange that Las Casas was 
not aware of, or did not mention, the Jeronimite 
Fathers had also come to the conclusion that 
negroes must be introduced into the West Indies. 
Writing in January, 1518, when the Fathers could 
not have known what was passing in Spain in 
relation to this subject, they recommended licences 
to be given to the inhabitants of Hispaniola, or to 
other persons, to bring negroes there. From the 
tenour of their letter it appears that they had 
before recommended the same thing. Zuazo, the 
judge of residencia, and the legal colleague of Las 
Casas, wrote to the same effect. He, however, 



suggested that the negroes should be placed in 
settlements, and married. Fray Bernandino de 
Manzanedo, the Jeronimite Father, who had been 
sent over to counteract Las Casas, gave the same 
advice as his brethren about the introduction of 
negroes. He added a proviso, which does not 
appear in their letter (perhaps it did exist in one 
of the earlier ones), that there should be as many 
women as men sent over, or more. 

The suggestion of Las Casas was approved 
of by the Chancellor, and by Adrian, the colleague 
of the late Cardinal: and, indeed, it is probable 
there was hardly a man of that time who would 
have seen further than the excellent Clerigo did. 
Las Casas was asked, what number of negroes 
would suffice ? He replied that he did not know ; 
upon which a letter was sent to the officers of the 
India House at Seville, to ascertain the fit number 
in their opinion. They said that four thousand 
would at present suffice, being one thousand for 
each of the islands, Hispaniola, Porto Rico, Cuba, 
and Jamaica. Somebody now suggested to the 
Governor De Bresa, a Fleming of much influence 
and a member of the Council, that he should ask 
for this licence to be given to him. De Bresa 

and Adrian 
this advice. 

Licence to 
De Bresa 
for 4000 


accordingly asked the King for it, who granted 
his request ; and the Fleming sold this licence to 
certain Genoese merchants for twenty-five thou- 
sand ducats, having obtained from the King a 
pledge that for eight years he would give no other 
licence of this kind. 

The consequence of this monopoly enjoyed by 
the Genoese merchants was, that negroes were 
sold at a great price, of which there are frequent 
complaints. Both Las Casas and Pasamonte 
(rarely found in accord) suggested to the King 
Unexpected that it would be better to pay the twenty-five 

result of the 

monopoly, thousand ducats and resume the licence, or to 
abridge its term. Figueroa, writing to the Em- 
peror from St. Domingo in July, 1520, says: — 
" Negroes are very much in request : none have 
come for about a year. It would have been 
better to have given De Bresa the customs' duties 
(i. e. the duties that had been usually paid on 
the importation of slaves) than to have placed a 
prohibition." I have scarcely a doubt that the 
immediate effect of the measure adopted in conse- 
quence of the Clerigo's suggestion was greatly to 
check that importation of negro slaves, which 


otherwise, had the licence been general, would 
have been very abundant. 

Before quitting this subject, something must 

be said for Las Casas which he does not allege 

for himself.* This suggestion of his about 

the negroes was not an isolated one. Had Excuses fo* 

Las Casas. 
all his suggestions been carried out, and the 

Indians thereby been preserved, as I firmly be- 
lieve they might have been, these negroes might 
have remained a very insignificant number in the 
general population. By the destruction of In- 
dians a void in the laborious part of the com- 
munity was being constantly created, which had 
to be filled up by the labour of negroes. The 
negroes could bear the labour in the mines much 
better than the Indians; and any man who per- 
ceived that a race, of whose Christian virtues and 
capabilities he thought highly, were fading away 
by reason of being subjected to labour which 
their natures were incompetent to endure, and 

* Las Casas is much misrepresented by Herrera, who 
gives an account of the suggestion as if it were made, not 
in addition to, but in substitution for, other measures. 


which they were most unjustly condemned to, 
might prefer the misery of the smaller number 
of another race treated with equal injustice, but 
more capable of enduring it. I do not say that 
Las Casas considered all these things; but, at 
any rate, in estimating his conduct, we must re- 
collect, that we look at the matter centuries after 
it occurred, and see all the extent of the evil 
arising from circumstances which no man could 
then be expected to foresee, and which were in- 
consistent with the rest of the Clerigo's plans for 
the preservation of the Indians. 

I suspect that the wisest amongst us would 
very likely have erred with him : and I am not 
sure that, taking all his plans together, and taking 
for granted, as he did then, that his influence at 
court was to last, his suggestion about the negroes 
was an impolitic one. 

One more piece of advice Las Casas gave at 

this time, which, if it had been adopted, would 

Another have been most serviceable. He proposed that 


made by forts for mercantile purposes, containing about 
thirty persons, should be erected at intervals 
along the coast of the Terra-firma, to traffic with 
merchandize of Spain for gold, silver, and precious 


stones; and, in each of these forts, ecclesiastics 
were to be placed, to undertake the superintend- 
ence of spiritual matters. In this scheme may- 
be seen an anticipation of our own plans for com- 
mercial intercourse with Africa. And, indeed, 
one is constantly reminded by the proceedings in 
those times of what has occurred much later and 
under the auspices of other nations. 

Of all these suggestions, some of them certainly 
excellent, the only questionable one was at once 
adopted. Such is the irony of life. If we may 
imagine immortal beings beholding, with alterna- 
tions of hope and fear, the great contests of the 
world, this fatal conclusion was a thing which 
all those who love mankind must have regarded 
with poignant sorrow and dismay. 

Turning our thoughts from bad angels to bad 
men, it is vexatious to find the Bishop of Burgos 
creeping back to power just at this period. For 
a long time the Bishop had been quite in the 
background: and Conchillos, Ferdinand's minis- 
ter, who also formerly had great weight in the 
government of the Indies, finding himself without 
any authority, had retired to his estate. But 


now, owing, it is said, to the effect of sixteen 

thousand ducats, or because the Bishop had been 

so long engaged in the Indian administration 

that his absence was felt (for Las Casas is by no 

Bishop of means certain of the bribery), the Bishop was re- 
recalled to called to the Council ; and he opposed, as quietly 


as he could, the excellent plans of Las Casas for 
colonization. The Bishop said, that for these 
twenty years he had been endeavouring to find 
labourers to go to the Indies, and that he had 
not yet found twenty men who would go. Las 
Casas engaged to find three thousand. The 
Clerigo, too, could give a reason why the Bishop 
had not succeeded in getting labourers, saying 
that it was because the Indies had been made a 
penal colony. 

At the time of these altercations in the Coun- 
cil, the court had been moving from Valladolid, 
in order that the King might take formal posses- 
sion of the throne of Aragon. In the course of 
Las Casas the iourney, at Aranda on the Douro, Las Casas 

falls ill. . 

fell ill, and was left behind, much regretted, as 

The King's he tells us, even the boy King saying, " I wonder 

him. now Micer Bartholomew is " ( Oh que tal estard 

• Micer Bartolome). The King, young as he was, 


was likely to approve of a sound-hearted man like 
Las Casas ; and, though a person who has but 
one subject is apt to be rather troublesome, yet 
his devotedness elicits a certain interest for him. 
Moreover, anything that has life and earnestness 
in it is welcome to sombre people. I am parti- 
cular in noticing this liking of the young King 
for Las Casas, as I cannot but attribute some of 
the King's future proceedings with regard to the 
Indians to the information he was silently acquir- 
ing from the Clerigo at this period. Thus it is 
that good seed is not lost, which should be a com- 
fort to those who in their own time make great 
efforts, and seem to effect nothing. In a few days 
the Clerigo, whom the court left ill at Aranda, 
got better, and he overtook them before they Las Casas 
reached Saragossa. The Grand Chancellor re- 
ceived him very kindly. The great business of 
the reformation of the Indian government, of 
which only the part that was no reformation at all 
had been accomplished, was now to be proceeded 
with. Again, however, it was delayed — this time 
by the illness of the Bishop of Burgos, who had 
now to be consulted ; though, as Las Casas 
retained his full favour with the Chancellor, of 


which there is good evidence, the Bishop was not 

able to thwart the views of the Clerigo. Las 

Casas received at this juncture the evidence of 

Father Father Roman concerning the horrible cruelties 

Romans D 

evidence. committed by one of the captains of Pedrarias, 
named Espinosa, which caused the destruction of 
40,000 souls ; # and Las Casas took care to bring 
this evidence before the Chancellor, who sent him 
with it to the Bishop. 

At last, on the Bishop's recovery, the Junto 
for the business of the Indies was on the point of 
being called together — " to-morrow," it may be — 
(Las Casas is speaking of a certain Friday when 
he is to sup with the Chancellor), when, in the 
evening of that day, the Chancellor's servants tell 
him that a little page of his, a nephew, who was 
ill in the house, is dead, at which he appeared 

* " Entre tanto recibid una Carta el Clerigo de Sevilla del 
Padre Fray Reginaldc- de quien arriba en el Capitulo no- 
venta y ocho hizimos mencion, haciendole saber, como habia 
llegado alii de la tierra firme un Religiose- de San Fran- 
cisco, llamado Fray Francisco de Sant Roman, que afirmaba 
por sus ojos, haver visto meter a espada, y echar a perros 
brabos sobre quarenta mill animas de Indios." — Las Casas. 
Hist, de las Indias, MS., lib. iii. cap. 102. 



very sorrowful. " To-morrow " the Chancellor 
himself feels ill, and does not go to the palace. 
There are symptoms of fever. On Monday, how- 
ever, he is well enough to go to the window of 
his room. We may imagine with what anxiety 
Las Casas heard of the illness : it may be that 
he was the very person who, ever on the watch, 
perceived the Chancellor at the window. But the 
fever was not to be baffled : they did not bleed 
the poor man in time, according to the theory of 
those days. He died, and on Wednesday he was 
not even on the face of the earth. <e And the 
Grand Chancellor being dead, of a truth there 
died, for that time, all hope of a remedy for the 

Illness and 
death of 

This, as Las Casas remarks, was the second a second 
time * when the " salvation " of those nations (the reverse 

for the 

* I suppose the first time was when, according to Las 
Casas, Ximenes took Indian affairs in hand ; but I should 
name three occasions— 1. The appointment of the Junta 
who made the laws of Burgos. 2. The appointment of 
Jeronimites. 3. The present one, viz. the appointment by 
the King of the Chancellor Selvagius and Las Casas to pro- 
vide a remedy for the Indies. 


Indians) seemed assured, and when a reverse 
occurred, and hope altogether vanished away. So 
fearfully valuable is the life of a great man in a 
despotic state : and it may console us, who live 
under representative governments, for a certain 
mediocrity and difficulty in the management of 
public affairs, that at least we are not subject to 
these dreadful reverses occasioned by the loss of 
one man. What is gained by us is mostly gained 
by the increase of insight in large bodies of 
men, and will live and augment itself with the 
advancement of the general thought of the nation. 

Bishop of Upon the Grand Chancellor's death, the Bishop 

Burgos in # 

full power of Burgos instantly regained all his old influence 


in the government of the Indies ; and down went 
the Clerigo " into the abysses," as he expresses it. 
Nothing was to be done with the interim Chan- 
cellor, a very phlegmatic Dean,* who praised the 
Clerigo's unwearied efforts, but could not summon 
up energy enough to assist him : " and certainly," 
to use our historian's own words, " when a man 
of a choleric temperament, like the Clerigo, and 

* The Dean of BesarKjon. 


an excessively phlegmatic person, like the good 
Dean, have to transact business together, it is no 
slight torment to each of them. However," he 
slyly adds, " it did not kill the Dean, such was 
his phlegmatic patience." 

At this time, on the Bishop of Burgos's sugges- Council for 

. the Indies. 

tion, an especial Council for Indian affairs was 1518. 
formed. He was appointed president; Hernando 
de Vega and Zapata, both of whom had connec- 
tions in the colonies, and who had themselves 
been deprived of Indians by the first law of 
Ximenes, were of this Council ; Peter Martyr, 
the historian, was put upon it; also Don Garcia 
de Padilla, the only person in the Council likely 
to take up new views. The appointment of such 
a council was very disheartening to Las Casas, 
who, nevertheless, like a brave man as he was, 
went about his work just as if all were smooth 
before him and shining brightly upon him. 

The first act of the Bishop was to recal the Jeronimites 
Jeronimite Fathers. Though for some time be- 
fore this they had possessed no real power (we 
find that their letters to the authorities in Spain 
were never answered), their presence and their 
influence must still have been productive of 



Effect of 
the small- 
pox in the 

good, and must at least have been felt as a con- 
siderable restraint upon evil-doers. Those, there- 
fore, who cared for the welfare of the Indies, must 
have been sorry to see the last vestige of the 
policy of the great Ximenes now altogether effaced 
from the Indian government. 

It has been stated * that, on the Jeronimite 
Fathers placing the Indians in settlements, the 
small-pox came among them and carried off num- 
bers. As I said before, I think this cause of the 
destruction of the Indians (a very convenient one 
for the conquerors to allege) has been exagge- 
rated; and I am confirmed in this opinion by a 
letter written by Zuazo, which must have arrived 
at court about four or five months before this 
time, in which he says nothing of the small- pox, 
but assigns as one of the main causes of the de- 
crease of the Indians the frequent change of 
government that there had been, which led to 
new repartimientos, and to changes of climate and 
water for the Indians, which were fatal to many 
of them ; — " as in a number of small things, passed 

* See Oviedo and Herrera. 


rapidly from hand to hand, even with care, the 
number is soon diminished." 

Just at this time, when the Bishop of Burgos 
was carrying it with a high hand in the Council 
of the Indies, a little gleam of good fortune broke 
most unexpectedly upon Las Casas and his cause. 
In all his affairs at court, he had principally been 
conversant with the late Chancellor ; yet some 
knowledge of the business for which Las Casas 
worked at court with such indomitable persever- 
ance was doubtless generally circulated amongst 
the courtiers. Amongst them there was a certain 
Monsieur de Bure (a young man, as I conjecture), 
who, it appears, had a desire to make himself ac- 
quainted with this business of the Indians. He 
caused his wish to be made known to the Clerigo : 
they had a meeting in the palace, and Las Casas 
acquainted him fully with the whole state of the Flemish 
case. Monsieur de Bure was much affected by favour 
the Clerigo's narration. De Bure was a powerful 
man, being the nephew of De Laxao,* who en- 
joyed great influence with the King, and who, 

* Carl Puper, Lord of Laxao. 



being the sommelier du corps,* slept in the King's 
room. De Laxao was a person celebrated for his 
wit. and probably on that account his society was 
exceedingly relished by the grave young King. 
Monsieur de Bure brought Las Casas to his uncle 
De Laxao, who also was much interested in the 
account which Las Casas gave of Indian affairs, 
and the result was, that he found protectors in 
these powerful men of the King's household and 

taken of 
in the 

At this time the Spanish court sent over 
Rodrigo de Figueroa to take a residencia of the 
auditors of St. Domingo, and of the judges ap- 
pointed by the Admiral. A certain Doctor de la 
Gama was appointed to take a residencia of the 
Lieutenant-Governor of San Juan, and of Velaz- 

* Sommelier was corrupted into Sumiller by the Spaniards. 
The following is the definition of the office : — " La persona 
nmy distinguida en palacio, a cuyo cargo esta la asistencia 
al rey en su retrete, para vestirle y desnudarle, y todo lo 
perteneciente a, la cama real. Summits prcefectus cubiculi 

" Es nombre introducido en Castilla con la casa de Bor- 
gona." — Diccionario de la Lengua Castellana por la Aca- 
demia Espanola. 


quez in Cuba; and Lope de Sosa was sent to 
succeed Pedrarias as governor of the Terra-firma, 
and to take a residencia of the same Governor. 
Information having been given that the inhabi- 
tants of Trinidad were cannibals, the King's Coun- 
cil resolved to order war to be made upon them ; 
but Las Casas prevailed upon the Council to in- 
sert in the instructions which Figueroa was to 
take with him, that, as the Clerigo Bartolome de 
Las Casas asserted that the natives of Trinidad 
were not cannibals, Figueroa should, on arriving 
at St. Domingo, examine carefully into the truth 
of this statement. He did so, and found that The natives 
these poor islanders were not cannibals, but very not canni- 
quiet people, as Figueroa himself afterwards bore 

At this period the Clerigo received a letter Pedrode 
from Pedro de Cordova, in which, after telling of letter. 
some horrible exploits of the Spaniards in the 
island of Trinidad, and expressing himself in a 
way that seems to show he was much dissatisfied 
with the proceedings of the Jeronimite Fathers, 
the good prelate of the Dominicans went on to 
say, that he wished the King would set apart one 
hundred leagues on the coast of the Terra-firma 


about Cumana, to be entered solely by the 
Franciscan and Dominican monks, for the purpose 
of preaching the Gospel there. His desire was, 
that no layman might be permitted to enter, so 
that no hindrance might occur to the good work ; 
and he suggested, that, if Las Casas could not 
obtain a hundred leagues, he should endeavour to 
obtain ten ; and that, if he could not get such a 
tract of land on the Terra-firma set apart for this 
purpose, he should try and get some little islands, 
called the Islands of Alonso, about fifteen or 
twenty leagues from the coast. The object was, 
Pedro de that this land set apart might be a city of refuge 

C6rdova's . . 

plan. f or the poor Indians, and a place wherein to teach 

the Gospel to them. Pedro de Cordova added 
that, if none of these requests should be granted, 
he would recal the brethren of his Order from 
those parts, for it was of no use their preaching 
" when the Indians saw those who called them- 
selves Christians acting in opposition to Chris- 

The good Father imagined that Las Casas 
was very powerful at court, not knowing how 
things had been changed by the death of the 
Chancellor, and by the return of the Bishop of 


Burgos to power. Las Casas, however, did what 
he could to further the request of Pedro de Cor- 
dova, but with no avail, the Bishop of Burgos 
saying, the King would be well advised indeed to 
grant a hundred leagues without any profit to 
himself. Such was the reply, as Las Casas notes^ 
of one of the successors of the apostles, who laid 
down their lives for the sake of conversion. 
And, as for profit to the King, "no profit did 
he derive for forty years and more from those 
hundred leagues, or from eight thousand in addi- 
tion, except to have them ravaged, desolated, and 
destroyed.' 1 * 

As nothing could be done at present in the 
scheme suggested by Pedro de Cordova, Las 
Casas returned to the prosecution of his own Emigration 
plan, namely, the sending out of labourers to the Las Casas. 
West India islands. In this he was favoured by 
Cardinal Adrian and the other Flemings; and 
he succeeded in obtaining all the provisions and 
orders that he wanted for that purpose. Amongst 
others, he procured that a certain esquire called 

* Las Casas, Hist, de las Tndias, MS., lib. iii. cap. 104. 


Berrio, an Italian, should be appointed by the 
King, and called the king's captain. He was to 
accompany Las Casas, to be under his orders, 
and to give notice by trumpet in the various 
towns of the purpose which Las Casas came to 
announce. This man, however, had no intention 
of really serving under the Clerigo, but he went 
to the Bishop of Burgos, and secretly got his 
orders altered from " Do what he shall desire 
you," to " Do what may seem good to you."* 

The Clerigo, with his squire and other atten- 
dants, set off on his expedition for procuring emi- 
grant labourers. He directed his course from 
Saragossa towards Castille, assembling the people 
Las Casas in the churches, and informing them of the benefits 

pursues his . . . 

emigration and privileges they would acquire by emigrating. 

scheme. ..,.,. 

JN umbers consented to go, inscribing their names 
in a book. At Berlanga, out of a population of 
two hundred, more than seventy inscribed their 
names. It gives a curious insight into those 
times, to see that the inducement with these 

* " Manda el Obispo luego que se raya la Cedula, y que 
donde decia hagais lo que el os dixere, hagais lo que os 
pareeiere." — Las Casas, Hist, de las Indias^ MS., lib. iii. 
cap. 104. 


people to emigrate, was to get away from the 
seignorial rights over them. They came to Las 
Casas with the greatest secrecy ; and he relates 
this speech made by four of them. " Senor, no one A motive 

for emi- 

of us wishes to go to the Indies for want of means gration. 
here, for each of us has a hundred thousand mara- 
vedis of hacienda and more, but we go to leave 
our children in a free land under royal juris- 

As was to be expected, the lords of these 
places were very hostile to Las Casas ; but their 
opposition was a trifling evil compared to the in- 
subordination of Berrio. This man often re- 
quested leave to go to Andalucia, where his wife 
was. The Clerigo would not allow this ; they 
would come, he said, to Andalucia in good time ; 
they were upon duty now : but no remonstrances 
sufficed to retain Berrio, who came one day, 
booted and spurred, to the Clerigo, and asked if 
he had any orders for Andalucia. Las Casas , 
then learrt for the first time that this Berrio was 
in fact no servant of his, but free to act for him- 
self: and the man accordingly took his departure 

* Las Casas, Hist, de las Lidias, MS., lib. iii. cap. 104. 



of the 

in this most wilful fashion. The mischief did 
not stop here. Berrio went to Andalucia, and, 
having collected about two hundred vagabonds, 
tapsters and roysterers and idle people, anything 
but labourers, went with them to the India House 
at Seville. The official persons there, having 
received no orders about them, were in complete 
perplexity what to do. They shipped them off, 
however, in two vessels which happened to be on 
the point of sailing at that time ; and the unfor- 
tunate rabble of emigrants arrived in this way at 
St. Domingo. There again the official people had 
received no orders to provide anything for the 
emigrants, many of whom died; others crowded 
into the hospitals ; others returned to their former 
mode of life ; and others preyed upon the Indians. 
Thus ended this miserable expedition ; and this 
ending may justly be attributed to the outrageous 
conduct of the Bishop of Burgos in altering a 
despatch, after it had been signed. 

Las Casas resolved to return to court. He 
was now fully assured of the facility of obtaining 
emigrants, but he did not wish to do any more at 
present than he had done in the matter, consider- 


ing the probable opposition of the great lords and 
the defection of Berrio, and also taking into ac- 
count the readiness of the common people to 
emigrate, which made it only a subject of more 
urgent concern to consider carefully what was to 
be done. When the Bishop of Burgos had heard 
the Clerigo's account of his expedition, in which 
he told his Lordship that he could answer for pro- 
curing not only three thousand but eight thousand 
labourers, the Bishop said it was " a great matter, 
a great matter indeed ;" but, as usual, nothing 
came of this speech, only that by repeated and 
energetic remonstrances Las Casas prevailed upon 
the Council to send wine and provisions after the 
poor wretches who had already sailed. These 
supplies, however, came too late. And so ended 
this plan for the benefit of the Indies. 

With all our aids and appliances of modern 
times, we, too, find emigration to be no light un- 
dertaking — one of the main difficulties being that 
the emigrants are generally of one class, so that 
the peculiarities of that one class are liable to be 
developed to the uttermost, and have to be pro- 
vided for all at once. 



Las Casas 
for sup- 
port of 

A controversy that the Clerigo had at Barce- 
lona with the Bishop of Burgos about the emigra- 
tion scheme deserves to be mentioned. Las Casas 
would not in any way further the proposed emi- 
gration, without being assured of the emigrants 
receiving support for a year after their arrival. 
This was a fundamental part of his plan, and 
finding that it was not to be conceded, and that 
other persons were being sought for to take charge 
of the emigration, he wrote to the towns which 
he had previously visited, and warned the people 
against going. When Las Casas was arguing 
one day before the Council of the Indies for the 
allowance of a year's support to be made to the 
emigrants, the Bishop said that the King would 
spend more with those labourers, than with an 
armada of twenty thousand men (the Lord Bishop 
was much more versed in fitting out armadas than 
in saying masses), to which Las Casas replied: 
" It appears then to your Lordship, that after you 
have been the death of so many Indians, you wish 
to be the death of Christians also." "I do not 
know," he adds, "whether the Bishop, who was 
no fool, took it." 

In fine, however, he could make nothing of this 



obdurate Bishop, and, almost glad to be freed from Las Casas 


the responsibility of the emigration scheme, he his emi- 
immediately turned his fertile mind to another scheme, 

plan, which he thought with worldly men might 

appear more feasible. 


Las Casas brings forward his Plan for founding a Colony. 
After failing in gaining his point with the Council of the 
Indies, he goes to Court, and succeeds in obtaining full 
power to carry out his design. 

AS CASAS still pondered over the 
original plan of Pedro de Cordova, for 
enclosing, as it were, a hundred leagues 
along the coast of the Terra-firma, and forbidding 
the entrance of laymen into it. That scheme, 
however, was liable to the objection of the Bishop 
of Burgos, that it held out no solid pecuniary ad- 
vantage to the crown. These two things, profit 
J^s Casas's f or the King and the preaching of the Gospel, 
must therefore be combined ; and from this idea 
came the following ingenious proposition. 

I may mention here, in the way of parenthesis, 
that a new Grand Chancellor, a learned and good 

new and 




man, according to our historian, had come from 
Flanders. This was Charles the Fifth's celebrated 
Chancellor, Arborio de Gattinara, a man whose 
name is found in connection with several of the 
greatest events of the age in which he lived. Just 
before his death, in 1529, he was made a cardinal. 

His moderation in reference to the Reformation 
is well known, and coincides with the high esteem 
which he had for Erasmus. I imagine him to 
have been one of the earliest of those professional 
statesmen, if the phrase may be used, who were 
afterwards so trustfully employed by Charles the 
Fifth, and in another generation by Elizabeth of 
England. Gattinara and Granvella correspond 
to Burleigh, the elder Bacon, and the other states- 
men who stood round the throne of that Queen. 

Gattinara favoured Las Casas almost as much 
as his predecessor in the chancellor's office, Selva- 
gius, had done. The Clerigo says that the Chan- 
cellor loved him much ; and as Las Casas was 
only a poor suitor, whose claims for attention 
were no other than the justness and the goodness 
of his cause, it is greatly to the credit of this 
Chancellor that he was always willing to give 
audience to Las Casas, and that he uniformly de- 





in great 




He favours 
the Clerigo. 


fended him. Whether, however, Gattinara had 
not quite as much influence as Selvagius (and it 
is certain he was not on such good terms with 
Chievres), or whether he himself was won over 
to a certain extent by the Bishop of Burgos, 
it is clear that this mischievous prelate had more 
power now in Indian affairs than he had possessed 
under the former Chancellor. 

Gattinara, though mixed up with so many- 
great affairs in France, in Germany, in Italy, and 
in Spain, was never perhaps seen so closely, nor, 
I imagine, to such advantage, as he will be in the 
following pages. 

The new proposition which Las Casas had to 
bring forward under this new dynasty (for the 
change of chancellors was almost a change of 
dynasty to him), is a very remarkable one. It 
formed the turning-point of the Clerigo's own 
life, and in its consequences had the widest in- 
fluence upon the fortunes of the New World. 
The substance of it was as follows : — 

Las Casas engaged to find fifty Spaniards, 
which he thought he could do amongst the 
colonists, moderate and reasonable men, who 


would undertake the good work he had in hand The plan 

of Las 

for them out of Christian motives, at the same Casasfor 


time ha vino; a fair view to furthering their own the Terra- 

... firma - 

interests by lawful means. He limited himself 

to fifty, because fifty would be more manageable 

than a greater number, and would be sufficient 

for peaceful converse with the Indians. 

These fifty were to subscribe two hundred 
ducats each, making ten thousand in the whole, 
which he thought would be enough to provide 
the requisite outfit and sustenance for a year, and 
presents for the Indians. 

The fifty were to wear a peculiar dress, white 
cloth with red crosses, like that of the Knights of 
Calatrava, but having some additional ornament. His 
Much ridicule was afterwards thrown on this part 
of the scheme ; and the proposed knights obtained 
the name of sanhenitos* in allusion to the dress of 
penitent convicts of the Inquisition. The object, 
however, of having a peculiar dress, was to distin- 
guish this band from any Spaniards whom the 
Indians had seen before. They were also to bring 
a message to the Indians, of a new tenour, telling 

* The garment called a sanbenito had a large red and 
yellow cross before and behind. 


them that they were sent to salute them from the 
King of Spain, who had heard of the evils and 
oppressions they (the Indians)^had suffered, that 
they were to give them presents as a sign of 
amity, and to protect them from the other Span- 
iards who had done them injury. 

Las Casas says that he had it in his mind, if 

God had prospered the work, to get the Pope and 

the King to allow this body to be formed into a 

religious fraternity. 

Induce- For the profit of the King, Las Casas held out 

ments to 

the King. the following inducements ; — that he would pacify 
the country assigned to him, which he requested 
should begin a hundred leagues above Paria* and 
extend down the coast a thousand leagues ;f 

* That means a hundred leagues to the eastward of Paria, 
i. e., taking the river Dulce as the eastern limit. " Conviene 
a saber desde cien leguas arriba de Paria, del Rio que 
llamaban el rio dulce, que agora llamamos el Rio y la tierra 
de los Arvacas, la costa abajo hasta a donde las mill leguas 
llegasen." — Las Casas, Hist de las Indias, MS., lib. iii. 
cap. 131. 

■j- It was ultimately restricted to about two hundred and 
sixty leagues. 

A letter has recently been brought to light, bearing the 
signature of Las Casas, but without date, which must, how- 


that after being settled there three years, he 
would contrive that the King should have fifteen 
thousand ducats of tribute from the Indians and 
the Spanish settlements, if there should be any ; 
and that this tribute should increase gradually, 
until, at the tenth year, and thenceforward, it 
should amount to seventy thousand ducats. 

e\er, have been addressed by him to the Grand Chancellor 
in the course of these negociations. 

It begins by stating that he does not wish to lose more 
time in a thing which is so manifestly good as this business, 
and so " practicable," unless, as he adds, the time which is 
lost here should prevent it (sino que lo que aqui se pierde de 
tiempo pudiendose escusar). 

He mentions that he first asked for a thousand leagues ; 
that when the matter was referred to the Council of the 
Indies, they reduced it to six hundred, and in those six 
hundred there were only two provinces, namely Cenu and 
Santa Martha, which produced gold, and that these provinces 
were included in a hundred leagues. He also mentions that 
he had asked for the pearl fisheries, but that they had been 
" taken" from him. This, however, he had acceded to, on 
the condition that those Spaniards who had the permission 
to go to the pearl fisheries, should be prevented from in- 
juring and scandalizing the Indians. He intimates, that 
now Cenu is about to be taken from him, and that, if so, it 
will greatly diminish the inducements which he can hold 
out to secular persons to join in his enterprize, and aid 


Las Casas also offered to found three settle- 
ments in the course of five years, with a fortress 
in each of them. Moreover, he would obtain 
geographical knowledge about the country as- 
signed to him, and give the King information on 
that head : and he would do what he could to 
convert the natives without its being any charge 
to the King. 

him with their funds ; " for," he adds, " as your Lordship 
may judge, we shall find few laymen who will be inclined 
to go and spend their estates, and to die and labour, solely 
to serve God, to convert souls, and to preach their faith to 
the infidels, (porque, como v. s. puede juzgar, pocos seglares 
hollar emos que se quieran mover a yr a gastar sus haziendas 
y a morir y trabajar como dicho es solamente por servir a 
Dios y convertir animas y predicar sufee a los yufieles). 

He puts it plainly to the Grand Chancellor, whether 
Lope de Sosa, who went out to supersede Pedrarias in the 
government of Darien, will not have enough to govern, and 
his people to destroy, without the province of Cenu. " Sin 
la provincia del Cenu queda a Lope de Sosa harta tierra y 
muy rica de oro desde el Darien versus occidentem para 
que el pueda governar y su gente destruyr." 

After offering many good reasons to the Chancellor for 
the request being granted, he prays that, at least, the pro- 
vince of Cenu may be divided between himself and Lope 
de Sosa, or, if that be not possible, that the onerous con- 
ditions which he had undertaken for himself and his knights 
might be diminished accordingly. 


The Clerigo on his part demanded, that the Demands of 

Las Casas. 

King should ask for a brief from the Pope, to 
allow the Clerigo to take with him twelve priests, 
Franciscans and Dominicans, who should come 
voluntarily : and that His Holiness should give a 
plenary indulgence to all those who should die on 
the voyage, or in the act of assisting in the said 

He also demanded that he might take ten In- 
dians from the islands, if they would come with 
him of their own accord. 

He also made it a provision, that all the In- 
dians who had been taken from that part of the 
Terra-firma which might be assigned to him, 
should be placed in his charge for the purpose of 
being restored to their own country. 

We come now to the inducements for the fifty 
to combine in this enterprize. They were to have 
the twelfth part of the revenues accruing to the 
King, and to be enabled to leave this to their 
heirs for ever.* 

* This was granted only for four descents. 



Then they were to be made Knights of the 
Golden Spur, and to have a grant of arms. Such 
of them as the Clerigo should appoint were to 
have the government of the proposed fortresses 
and of the settlements. There were also many 
other provisions and exemptions made in their 
favour (such for instance as their salt being tax- 
free), which we need not recount. 

Each of the fifty might import three negroes — 
half of the number men, half women,* and here- 
after, if it should seem good to the Clerigo, they 
might have seven more negro slaves each. It is 
evident, therefore, that at this time Las Casas 
had not discovered his error with regard to the 

No enco- 
to be in the 
of Las 

On behalf of the Indians, Las Casas de- 
manded that the King should give assurance 
that, neither at this present nor at any future 
time, should the Indians within the limits agreed 
upon, being in due obedience and tributary, be 
given to the Spaniards in repartimientos, or in 
slavery of any kind. 

* Rather a difficult matter ; but I suppose it means that 
the total number brought over should- consist of an equal 
number of males and females. 


There was to be a treasurer, a contador, and a 

Also, as a false relation of what should take 
place in these territories might be carried to the 
King, the King was to promise, that on no ac- 
count would he make any change in the order 
of things, as regarded this colony, without first 
hearing from* the treasurer and the contador. 

Several other matters of detail were provided 
for ; but the above is an outline of the most im- 
portant portions of this proposal made by Las 
Casas. Like any thing of long extent and large 
bearings, it presents certain points of attack ; but, 
upon the whole, if sufficient power were given 
to the head of the colony, it was likely to work 
well. The plan may remind the reader of feudal 
times, and of an abbot with a large domain and a 
retinue of knights to do his bidding. Those 
abbacies, probably, did not work ill for the poor 
in their neighbourhood. 

The great scheme being now ready, in which Las Casas 

it may be observed that Las Casas asked nothing plan be- 
fore the 
for himself, he explained it to the Grand Chan- Council of 

the Indies. 

cellor and the other Flemings, who received it 


favourably, and desired him to lay it before the 
Council of the Indies. There it was very ill 
received by the unflagging enemy of Las Casas, 
the Bishop of Burgos, and by the rest of the 
councillors. Still they did not utterly reject it, 
but sought by delay to put it aside. At this 
time the Grand Chancellor and Chievres were 
obliged to go to the borders of France, to treat 
of peace with the French King. Las Casas 
urged the settlement of his business ; and, on 
mentioning to the Flemings that he would have 
to leave the court on account of his poverty, a 
He receives Monsieur de Bure and a relation of his advanced 


the Clerigo money, for fear he should have to 
leave while the Chancellor was absent. The 
favour of Las Casas with the Flemings on the 
King's arrival in Spain has been attributed to a 
wish to oppose the policy of Ximenes and the 
Spanish councillors. These gifts to Las Casas 
cannot be accounted for on this supposition. He 
says that these men had no interest to serve ; and 
there is every reason to believe, that they acted 
from a regard for the man and a belief in the 
goodness of his cause. The Chancellor and 
Chievres returned ; but still Las Casas could 


make no way in the Council of the Indies. Not 
daunted, however, his fertile genius and amazing 
vigour stirred up new means for furthering his 
cause, and there is thus brought before us one 
of the most interesting episodes in the whole of 
this narrative. 

It has been a common practice at courts, to 
have certain set preachers. For the Spanish 
court at this time there were eight preachers to 
the King: and Las Casas bethought himself of 
laying his troubles and the wrongs of the Indians 
before these ecclesiastics, and beseeching their 
favour and assistance. I will here give their 
names, as I think we ought not to grudge naming 
men, who, though they come but once or twice 
before us, and speak but a few words in the great 
drama of history, do so in a way that ought to 
confer reputation upon them. First, then, there The Kirg's 
were the brothers Coronel, Maestro Luis and 
Maestro Antonio, both very learned men, doctors 
of the University of Paris ; then there was Miguel 
de Salamanca, also a doctor of the same univer- 
sity, and a master in theology, afterwards Bishop 
of Cuba ; then Doctor de la Fuente, a celebrated 



The preach- 
ers and Las 
Casas form 
a Junta. 

man in the time of the late Cardinal Ximenes, 
of his University of Alcala ; then brother Alonso 
de Leon, of the Franciscan Order, very learned 
in theology ; brother Dionysius, of the Order of 
St. Augustin, " a great preacher and very copious 
in eloquence : " the names of the other two Las 
Casas had forgotten. 

The King's preachers and Las Casas formed 
a Junta of their own. They admitted one or two 
other religiosos into it, a brother, as it was said, of 
the Queen of Scotland,* being one of them. This 
last mentioned noble monk was one of those who 
had come over from Picardy in the year 1516 or 
1517 ; and who himself had gained experience of 
the proceedings of the Spaniards on the coast of 
Cumana. The bold Scot wished to propose to 
the Junta a large question of the most searching 

* " Por este tiempo (1516, or early in 1517,) vinieron 
quatorce religiosos de Sant Francisco, todos extrangeros de 
Picardia, personas muy religiosas, de muchas letras y muy 
principales, y de gran celo para emplearse en la conversion 
de estas gentes, y entre ellos vino un hermano de la Eeyna 
de Escocia (segun se decia) varon de gran autoridad, viejo 
muy cano y todos ellos de edad madura, y que parecian 
como unos de los que imaginamos Senadores de Ronia."- 
Las Casas, Hist, de las Indias, MS., lib. iii. cap. 94. 



and fundamental nature, namely, " With what 
justice or right could an entrance be made into 
the Indies after the manner which the Spaniards 
adopted in entering those countries ? " 

Each day the Junta thus constituted met at the 
monastery of Santa Catalina, and formed, as the 
historian describes, a sort of antagonist Council 
to that held daily on Indian affairs under the 
auspices of the Bishop of Burgos. They met at The court 
the same hour as the Indian Council, perhaps the employ 

x . . . themselves 

better to evade observation, for I imagine their inindian 
proceedings were kept quite secret. 

The conclusion this Junta came to, was, that 
they were obliged by the Divine Law to under- 
take to procure a remedy for the evils of the 
Indies : and they bound themselves to each other 
by oath, that none of them were to be dismayed, 
or to desist from the undertaking until it should 
be accomplished. 

They resolved to begin by " the evangelical 
form of fraternal correction." First, they would 
go and admonish the Council of the Indies ; if 
this had no effect, they would then admonish the 
Chancellor; if he were obdurate they would ad- 
monish Monsieur Chievres ; and, if none of these 



They ad- 
monish the 
Council of 
the Indies. 

The Coun- 
cil receive 
the preach- 
ers' sugges- 

admonitions addressed to the officers of the crown 
were of any avail, they would finally go to the 
King and admonish him. 

If all these earthly powers turned a deaf ear to 
fraternal admonitions, they, the brethren, would 
then preach publicly against all of these great 
men, not omitting to give his due share of blame 
to the King himself. 

This resolution, drawn up in writing, they sub- 
scribed to ; and they swore upon the cross and 
the gospels to carry out their resolve. 

On a certain day they entered the Council of 
the Indies, to the astonishment of the Bishop of 
Burgos, and the rest of the Council, and having 
requested leave to speak, laid before the Council 
their admonitions and suggestions, bringing their 
discourse to an end by urging upon their wisdom 
the careful consideration of the proposals they had 

The Council received the paper with courtesy, 
and even with somewhat of approbation. To 
me it seems, as it did to Las Casas, that the 
scheme of the preachers for the regeneration of 
the Indies laboured under a great, if not a vital 
objection, in allowing too much work at the 



mines. But, on the whole, it is a very re- 
markable state paper ; sagacious, humane, and 

The Council of the Indies seems by quiet de- 
meanour to have absorbed the opposition of the 
preachers ; and these good men, thinking that 
they had produced the proper impression upon 
the minds of the statesmen, left the matter in 
their hands, considering themselves to have ful- 
filled their vow. As a body of men acting to- 
gether, they are no more heard of in this history. 
Still we must not conclude that their labours and 
their boldness went for nothing. The river that 
carries civilization through a country, and creates Legislation 
a metropolis, is fed by many streams whose names 
and waters are lost in it; and in like manner, 
many are the unnoticed currents of thought and 
endeavour which go to form the main volume of 
wise legislation. 

of many- 

In the meanwhile the indefatigable Las Casas, 
having little hope of any good coming from the 
remonstrance of the preachers, pressed on with 
vigour his own scheme of colonization. The 
Bishop of Burgos and the Council of the Indies 

Las Casas 
presses on 
his own 


with equal vigour resisted it. The Clerigo, backed 
by many of the Flemings, and, as he intimates, 
having access to the young King and being 
favourably received by him, took up a position 
of attack in reference to the Council of the Indies, 
and inveighed against its proceedings with his 
usual boldness. The end of this contest was, 
that the King, with the advice of the Chancellor, 
appointed a special Council to judge between Las 
Casas and the Council of the Indies in the matter 
at issue between them, Las Casas being permitted 
to name some of the members of this judicial 
Council. The Bishop of Burgos, when sum- 
moned to attend this Council, evaded the sum- 
mons, pleading indisposition : but, on another 
occasion, being summoned in general terms to a 
council, and supposing it to be a council of war, 
or state, he came readily enough, and was dis- 
mayed to find that Indian affairs and the business 
of Las Casas were the questions to be discussed. 
Being heard before this judicial Council, Las 
His sue- Casas eventually succeeded in obtaining a tract of 


land, extending from the province of Paria, to that 

of Santa Martha, about 260 leagues along the coast, 

and the proper official papers were put in course 



of preparation. The Clerigo thought now, that 
his business at court was really ended. But the 
Bishop had another arrow in his quiver. Oviedo, New op- 
the historian, had just come over from the Indies; 
and he and two others offered to take the land 
that Las Casas asked for, agreeing to pay a much 
higher sum to the King. It is curious to look 
back and see these two men, who were to be the 
most celebrated historians of the Indies, bidding 
against each other for the land to found a colony 
there ; but in those days men of letters were men 
of action, as perhaps they would be in any time, 
if they were not supposed to be unfitted for it. 

The Council, which I have described as the 
judicial Council, was summoned to hear this new Las Casas 

Tl P £Ll*f 1 

proposition. Las Casas spoke out very boldly before the 
before it; and, in the course of the proceedings, 
Antonio de Fonseca, the brother of the Bishop of 
Burgos, a man of great authority, thus addressed 
Las Casas, interrupting him probably in the midst 
of some statement : " You cannot now say that 
the members of the Indian Council have been the 
death of the Indians, for you have taken all their 
Indians away." He alluded to the order issued 
by Ximenes, that the Indians should be taken 


away from absentee proprietors, amongst whom 
were members of the Council. Las Casas replied, 
" My Lord, their Lordships have not been the 
death of all the Indians, but they have been the 
death of immense numbers where they possessed 
them : the principal destruction, however, of the 
Indians has been effected by private persons, which 
destruction their Lordships have abetted." 

The Bishop in a furious manner then broke 
into the discussion with these words: " A fortu- 
nate man, indeed, is he who is of the Council of 
the King, if, being of the Council of the King, 
he is to put himself in contest with Casas." To 
this unmannerly speech the Clerigo replied with 
Las Casas much readiness and dignity: " A more fortunate 

replies to 

the Bishop * man is Casas, if, having come from the Indies two 

of Burgos 

in Council, thousand leagues, encountering such risks and 
dangers, to advise the King and his Council, in 
order that they might not lose their souls {que no 
se vayan a los Irifiernos) on account of the tyranny 
and destruction which is going on in the Indies, 
in place of being thanked and honoured for it, he 
should have to put himself in contest with the 

At the end of the proceedings the votes were 
taken, and were found to be in favour of Las 


Casas. Still, the Council of the Indies, not likely 
to be much softened by the way in which he had 
spoken out before the great Council on this last 
occasion, continued to make resistance. Here we 
miss the late Cardinal, who would never have 
allowed for a day these mean endeavours to un- 
dermine a great undertaking. As a new device, Memorial 

against La 

the Council of the Indies drew up and presented Casas. 
to the Chancellor a memorial against the proposed 
grant being made to Las Casas, consisting of thirty 
articles, most of them of a very absurd character. 
Amongst them were such allegations as these : — 
that Las Casas, being a Clerigo, was not undei* 
the King's jurisdiction ; and that he would league 
with the Genoese and Venetians, and make off to 
foreign countries with plunder. In their last 
article the Council alleged, that they had many 
other reasons which were secret, but which they 
would tell His Highness (for the memorial was 
addressed to the King), when he should be pleased 
to hear them. 

The memorial was laid before the great Coun- 
cil ; and the result was, that the Chancellor, upon 
coming out of it, said to Las Casas, that he must 
give an answer to this document. The difficulty 
then arose of getting the memorial, for the Council 


of the Indies made frivolous excuses for with- 
holding it. Months were wasted about this 
trumpery affair, which may give us some notion 
of the perseverance and endurance of the Pro- 
TheChan- tector of the Indians. At last the Chancellor 

cellor ob- 
tains the got the memorial into his hands. He then in- 

vited Las Casas to dinner, and afterwards, taking 

out of his escrutoire a large bundle of papers, he 
said to the Clerigo, " Answer now to these things 
they say against you." Las Casas replied, that 
the Council of the Indies had been months pre- 
paring this accusation, " and I have to answer 
them in a credo.* Give me the papers for as 
many hours as they had months, and your Lord- 
ship shall see that I will answer them." The 
Chancellor said, that he could not part with the 
papers, as he had promised he would not let them 
go out of his possession, but Las Casas might 
answer them there. So, of an evening, while the 
Chancellor was at his work, the Clerigo came, 
and sat in a corner of the room, and drew up his 
reply. Chancellors, even in those days, seem to 
have been greatly overworked; but, indeed, this 

* In the time he could recite his belief. 


has always been the case, that the work of the 
world, of all kinds, gets into knots, as it were ; 
and one man is often left to do the work of six 
men, who, with infinite dissatisfaction to them- 
selves, are looking on and noting how ill the 
work is done. At eleven o'clock, a collation 
was always brought in ; at twelve, the Clerigo 
took his leave, and went home to his posada, not 
without some fear of what might happen to him 
on the way from such powerful enemies as were Las Casas 


ranged against him. In four evenings Las Casas to the 


had prepared his reply. 

The Chancellor then summoned a council, and 
laid the reply before them. It seems to have 
been successful, for all the Bishop of Burgos could 
say against it was, " The preachers of the King 
have made these answers for him." This, of 
course, the Chancellor knew to be false. He 
reported to the King the whole course of the 
proceedings ; and His Highness ordered that 
Micer Bartolome should have the grant, and 
that no notice should be taken of the offers of 
those who wished to outbid him. 

The reader will think that he has now accom- 
panied the Clerigo to a triumphant 'lonclusion of 



the Bishop 
of Darien 
and Las 

his present business at court ; but, before he 
left, he was destined to have what he calls " a 
terrible combat ; " and, as it will bring the young 
King into presence, upon whose disposition and 
knowledge of Indian affairs so much depended, 
it will be well to give an account of this combat. 

Just at this time it happened that the Bishop 
of Darien came to court — upon what business 
will hereafter appear from a statement of his own. 
The court was still at Barcelona, but, on account 
of a pestilence that prevailed there, the King was 
lodged at a place called " Molins de Rey," three 
leagues from the town ; and the great Lords oc- 
cupied houses in the suburbs. Las Casas, seeing 
the Bishop of Darien for the first time, in the 
King's apartments, asked what prelate that was. 
They told him, " The Bishop of the Indies." 
Las Casas went up to him, and said, " My Lord, 
as I am concerned in the Indies, it is my duty to 
kiss the hands of your Lordship." The Bishop 
asked who it was that addressed him, and, being 
informed, rudely replied, " O, Sefior Casas ! and 
what sermon have you to preach to us ? " 

Las Casas, who was never daunted by bishop 
or councillor, answered at once, " There was a 


time, my Lord, when I desired to hear you 
preach" (the Bishop had been King's preacher 
in former days), " but I now declare to your 
Lordship, that I have two sermons ready for 
you, which, if you please to hear and well con- 
sider them, may be worth more than all the money 
that you bring from the Indies." ({ You have 
lost your senses ; you have lost your senses," said 
the Bishop. An acquaintance of the Bishop 
said to his Lordship, " All these Lords approve 
of Senor Casas, and of his intentions." The 
Bishop replied, " With good intentions he may 
do a thing which shall be mortal sin." At this 
moment, when the Clerigo, once engaged in con- 
troversy, would doubtless have uttered some severe 
and angry speech, the doors of the council cham- 
ber, where the King was, opened, and the Bishop 
of Badajoz came out, for whom the other Bishop 
was waiting, as he was to dine with him. 

Now the Bishop of Badajoz, who was in great 
credit with the King, had always favoured the 
Clerigo ; and Las Casas, fearing that the Bishop 
of Darien might injure him with his brother 
Bishop, resolved to go to his house that day. 
He went there when the company had finished 


their dinner, and found the Bishop of Badajoz 
playing at backgammon (a las tablets) with the 
Admiral Don Diego Columbus, the Bishop re- 
• creating himself until it was the hour to return 
to the King's lodgings again. There was a knot 
of bystanders looking on at the game, and one of 
them happened to say to the Bishop of Darien, 
that wheat was grown in Hispaniola. The Bishop 
said that it was not possible. Now Las Casas 
happened to have in his purse some grains of 
wheat which had been grown under an orange 
tree in the garden of the Dominican Monastery 
The Bishop of St. Domingo ; and so, after controverting most 

in the 

wrong. respectfully the assertion of the Bishop, he pro- 

duced the wheat. The Bishop replied with fierce- 
ness, and then launched into a general attack of 
the rudest kind upon Las Casas, declaring his 
unfitness for the business he had come to court 
upon. Great ecclesiastics have mostly been well- 
disposed and well-spoken men; but, when there 
has arisen an insolent one, his ill-breeding has 
always, I imagine, far outgone that of other men. 
The fervid Las Casas was not behindhand in the 
war of words, and told the Bishop that he drank 
the blood of his own flock, and that unless he 


returned to the last farthing all the money he had 
brought over, he was no more likely to be saved 
than Judas Iscariot. The Bishop endeavoured 
to laugh down these violent sayings. The Cle- 
rigo told him he ought to weep rather than to 
laugh. At last the Bishop of Badajoz, using the 
authority of a host, interfered, saying, " No more, 
no more;" and after the Admiral and another 
great Lord had said some words in favour of Las 
Casas, the Clerigo retired. 

The Bishop of Badajoz, when he saw the King 
in the afternoon, told him of what had taken place 
between the Bishop of Darien and the Clerigo, 
saying that His Highness would have been amused 
to hear what Micer Bartolome said to the Bishop. 
I have but little doubt that there was supposed 
to be some truth in the hard sayings of the Cle- 
rigo. The King resolved to hear what they both 
had to say, and for that purpose fixed an hour of 
audience three days from that time. The Admiral 
of the Indies, as the matter concerned him, was 
requested to be present ; and, as it happened that 
a Franciscan brother from Hispaniola had just 
arrived at court, he also was ordered by the King 
to attend this audience. 



The King 



to persons 


in the 


Bishop of 



The day came : the King took his seat on the 
throne, a few of his greatest councillors being 
ranged around him on benches below. The order 
of the proceedings was as follows. The Chan- 
cellor and the Lord of Croy ascended the dais 
where the King was seated, and on their knees 
conferred with him and received his commands. 
Then, when they had returned to their places, 
the Chancellor gave utterance to these com- 
mands : — "Reverend Bishop, His Majesty" 
(Charles had just been elected Emperor, and was 
therefore styled Majesty) " commands you to 
speak, if you have anything to say touching the 

The Bishop of Darien then rose, and made, as 
Las Casas admits, an elegant exordium, saying 
how he had long desired to see that Royal Pre- 
sence, and that now, God having complied with 
his desire, he knew that the face of Priam was 
worthy of his kingdom. Having finished this 
exordium, the Bishop went on to say, that he had 
come from the Indies, and had secret matters of 
much importance to communicate, which had better 
be told to His Majesty and the Council only, 
wherefore he begged that those who were not 



of the Council, might be ordered to depart. The 
King desired, through the Chancellor, that the 
Bishop should say there and then whatever he 
had to say. Part of the Bishop's speech is so 
remarkable, that it is better to give that in his 
own words. 

u Very powerful Sir, the Catholic King your 
grandfather (may he be in glory ! ) determined to 
make an armada to go and people the Terra- 
firma of the Indies, and he begged our very holy 
Father to create me Bishop of that new settle- 
ment ; and, not counting the time passed in going 
and returning, I have been five years there, and, 
as we were much people and took with us no 
more provisions than were necessary for the 
journey, the greatest part died of hunger, and 
we who remained, in order not to die as those 
did, have all this time done no other thing than 
rob and kill and eat. Seeing, then, that the land 
was going to destruction, and that the first Go- 
vernor was bad, and the second much worse, and 
that Your Majesty had in a happy hour arrived 
in these kingdoms, I determined to come and give 
You intelligence of this, as to my Lord and 
King." Touching the Indians, the Bishop said, 

His opinion 
of the 
of Darien. 


that from what he had seen of them, both in his 
own diocese, and on his journey, his opinion was 
that they were by nature slaves. 

Las Casas was now commanded to speak. It 
Speech of will be needless, however, to recount his speech, 

Las Casas. 

as his thoughts on these subjects, and the prin- 
cipal facts which he enumerated, have already 
been stated in various parts of this narrative. 
It appears that the Bishop of Darien, in the 
course of his argument, had quoted Plato, to 
which the Clerigo, I am sorry to say, made this 
reply : " Plato was a Gentile, and is now burning 
in Hell, and we are only to make use of his 
doctrine as far as it is consistent with our holy 
Faith and Christian customs." 

Though the speech of the Clerigo need not be 
reported in full, one declaration that he made 
must not be omitted, in which he told the King, 
that he had not taken up his vocation to please 
him, but to please God, and in proof of this bold 
assertion, went on to say, " I renounce whatever 
temporal honour or reward Your Majesty may 
wish to confer upon me."* 

* Indeed, he went so far #s to say that, with all respect 
for so great a King, he would not go from where he stood 


Las Casas having finished, the Franciscan 
Father was ordered to speak. " My Lord," he Speech of a 


said, " I have been certain years in the island of monk. 
Hispaniola, and I was commanded with others to 
go and visit and take the number of Indians in 
the island, and we found that they were so many 
thousand. Afterwards, at the end of two years, 
a similar charge was again given to me, and we 
found that there had perished so many thousand. 
And thus the infinity of people who were in that 
island has been destroyed. Now, if the blood of 
one person unjustly put to death was of such 
effect that it was not removed out of the sight of 
God until he had taken vengeance for it, and the 
blood of the others never ceases to exclaim * Vin- 
dica sanguinem nostrum, Deus noster? what will 
the blood do of such innumerable people as have 

to the corner of the room, merely to serve His Majesty, 
unless it were to perform his duty as a subject, and unless 
he thought that it were consistent with the will of God to 
do so. — " Es cierto (hablando con todo acatamiento y re- 
verencia que se deve a tan alto Rey e Senor) que de aqui 
a aquel rincon no me mudare por servir a Vuestra Ma- 
gestad, salva la fidelidad que como subdito devo, sino pen- 
sase y creyese hacer a, Dios en ello gran sacrificio." — Las 
Casas, Hist, de las Indias, MS., lib. iii. cap. 148. 



Speech of 
of the 


perished in those lands under such great tyranny 
and injustice? Then, by the blood of Jesus 
Christ and by the wounds* of St. Francis, I pray 
and entreat Your Majesty, that you would find a 
remedy for such wickedness and such destruction 
of people, as perish daily there, so that the divine 
justice may not pour out its severe indignation 
upon all of us." 

It was a short speech, but uttered with such 
fervour, that it seemed to Las Casas as if all the 
persons there present were already listening to 
words pronounced in the Day of Judgment. 

The Admiral was then requested to speak. 
He spoke prudently, acknowledging the evils, 
bearing witness as to what the religiosos had done 
in denouncing these evils, and praying also on his 
part for a remedy. 

Upon the Admiral's ceasing to speak, the 
Bishop of Darien asked for leave to reply, but 
he was desired to deliver in writing what more he 
had to say. The King then rose, and retired 
into his room, and the audience was ended. It 
may be hoped that the young Emperor, who, we 

* The sti 


are told, was unmoved by his new title,* but who 
had now begun to reign for himself, f found much 
to ponder over, from this his first audience in the 
affairs of the Indies. 

It may be as well to mention here, that the 
Bishop of Darien did submit his information and Bishop 


his opinions about the Indies in writing, that his gives his 

opinion in 

memorials were very much in accordance with writing-. 
the statements that Las Casas had already made, 
and that the Bishop, when asked his opinion re- 
specting the Clerigo's plan, approved of it, to the 
great delight, as Las Casas tells us, of the Chan- 
cellor and Laxao, as men who loved to favour a 
good design, and had no mean ends of their own. 
It may be remarked that Peter Martyr, who is 
always sufficiently severe upon the Flemings, 
finds much to praise in this Chancellor. 

* " Rex, jam Csesar, quicquid in humanis prsestare for- 
tuna potest visus est nihili facere. Tanta est ejus gravitas 
et aninii magnitude*, ut habere sub pedibus universuni prae 
se ferre videatur." — Peter Martyr, Epist, 648. 

f " Porque, conio el Rey comenzaba entonces a reinar, 
eran frecuentes los consejos." — Las Casas, Hist, de las 
Indicts, MS., lib. iii. cap. 147. 


At this time the Jeronimite Fathers came to 
Jeroni- court, on their return from Hispaniola; but, not 

mites. x 

being able to obtain an audience of the King, 
they retired to their monasteries, and, I believe, 
were no more heard of in the government of the 

The King went to Coruna, in order to embark 
there, and to proceed to Germany for the purpose 
of being made Emperor with the due formalities, 
and the last seven days before his embarkation 
were given to the business of the Indies. In one 
of the Councils held on this occasion, the Cardinal 
Adrian (the former colleague of Ximenes) made 
a great speech in favour of the liberty of the 
Indians ; and it was resolved that they ought to 
be free, and should be treated as free men. The 
The grant grant to Las Casas was also concluded, and the 

to Las 

King signed the necessary deed on the 19th of 
May, 1520. On the 20th he embarked for Flan- 
ders. It was during this voyage that he landed 
at Dover ; and his object in making this visit was 
to prevent, if possible, the injury which he, or his 
councillors, foresaw might arise to his affairs from 
the meeting of the Kings of France and England 
at the proposed tourney, afterwards called the 
Field of the Cloth of Gold. Cardinal Adrian was 


nominated as Regent of Spain during the King's 

In the settlement of the details of the Clerigo's 
business, he was left to the mercy of the Bishop 
of Burgos, and a most formidable opposition might 
in consequence have been expected ; but, strange 
to say, the Bishop facilitated the settlement of the Bishop 

of Burgos 

affair, thus showing himself to have some noble- favours the 

ness of mind, for, the King and the Flemish 
ministers having departed, Las Casas was but a 
shadow of his former self. The Clerigo, too, 
meeting his old adversary's relentings with equal 
generosity, expresses a hope (though mingled 
with great fear about the result) that all the 
mischief the Bishop had been the cause of in 
the Indies might not come upon his soul; and 
Las Casas finds some excuse for the Bishop in 
his not having been a learned man, but having 
followed the ignorance of the learned. Each 
must have felt for the other as one of the chiefs 
in Ossian", who says, "I love a foe like Cath- 
mor: his soul is great; his arm is strong; there 
is fame in his battles. But the little soul is 
like a vapour that hovers round a marshy lake. 
It never rises on the green hill, lest the winds 
meet it there." 



We must not suppose that, absorbed in all these 
'P ie . , secular negociations, the Clerigo had changed the 

Clengo's ° ° & 

purpose main drift of his purpose. That was still spiri- 

uncnanged. x L * 

tual, or, at the lowest, philanthropic, as we may- 
gather from a remarkable answer which he made 
at an early stage of the proceedings to a certain 
licentiate, called Aguirre, a very good man, of 
great authority in those times, whom Queen Isa- 
bella had chosen for one of her executors. This 
man had always loved and favoured Las Casas, 
but when he found that the Clerigo was pursuing 
an enterprize in which Aguirre heard of rents 
being paid to the King, and of honours being 
sought for by Las Casas on behalf of his com- 
panions, the licentiate said " that such a manner 
of proceeding in preaching the gospel had scan- 
dalized him, for it evinced an aiming after tem- 
poral interests, which he had never hitherto sus- 
pected in the Clerigo."*. 

* " Dijo que le habia desedificado aquella manera de 
proceder en la predicacion Evangelica, porque mostraba 
pretender temporal interese, lo que nunca hasta entonces 
habia sospechado de el." — Las Casas, Hist, de las Indias, 
MS., lib. iii. cap. 137. 


Las Casas, having heard what Aguirre had 
said, took occasion to speak to him one day in 
the following terms : " Seiior, if you were to see 
our Lord Jesus Christ maltreated, vituperated, 
and afflicted, would you not implore with all your 
might that those who had him in their power 
would give him to you, that you might serve and 
worship him ? " " Yes," said Aguirre. " Then," His reply 

* . t0 tne 

replied Las Casas, " if they would not give him licentiate 


to you, but would sell him, would you redeem 
him ?" " Without a doubt." " Well, then, Se- 
nor," rejoined Las Casas, " that is what I have 
done, for I have left in the Indies Jesus Christ, 
our Lord, suffering stripes, and afflictions, and 
crucifixion, not once but thousands of times, at 
the hands of the Spaniards, who destroy and deso- 
late those Indian nations, taking from them the 
opportunity of conversion and penitence, so that 
they die without faith and without sacraments." 

Then Las Casas went on to explain how he 
had sought to remedy these things in the way 
that Aguirre would most have approved. To 
this the answer had been, that the King would 
have no rents, wherefore, when he, Las Casas, 
saw that his opponents would sell him the gospel, 



he had offered those temporal inducements which 
Aguirre had heard of and disapproved. 

The licentiate considered this a sufficient an- 
swer, and so, I think, would any reasonable 


Las Casas tries to detain Ocampd's Expedition — He com- 
plains to the Audiencia — He is put in command of an 
Expedition to the Terra-frma — His followers desert him 
on his arrival there. 

}EFORE following Las Casas any far- 
ther, we must mention that in 1518 
several monks, Franciscans, as well as 
Dominicans, founded two monasteries on the Pearl 
Coast, one called Santa Fe de Chiribichi and the 
other Cumana. They were very successful in 
attracting to themselves the Indians, and lived a 
peaceful and unmolested life, till a Spaniard of 
the name of Ojeda, a pearl fisher, who dwelt in 
the neighbouring island of Cubagua, being in 
want of slaves, treacherously captured and carried 
off some of the Indians dwelling in their neigh- 
bourhood. Ojeda had previously visited the Do- 
minicans, and it is supposed that the Indians 



imagined the Dominicans (who, however, were 
perfectly innocent) to be connected in some way 
with this outrage, and resolved to revenge them- 
selves. A few Sundays afterwards, as they were 
celebrating mass, the Indians rushed in, and mur- 
dered several of them. The Franciscans at Cu- 
mana were also attacked, and the fury of the 
Indians, once excited, was such that they did 
not spare even the live creatures found in the 
monastery, down to the cats. 

The Spaniards on the island of Cubagua, hearing 
that the infuriated Indians intended attacking them, 
were seized with a panic, and deserted the island, 
and when the Indians poured over it like a furious 
wave they found great stores of goods and mer- 
chandize which these wealthy pearl fishers had 
left behind them. 

Theautho- \ When these events at Cubagua and on the 

rities at St. 

Domingo Pearl Coast came to the knowledge of the au- 

send an 

expedition diencia at St. Domingo, they resolved to send an 

to Chiri- 

bichi. expedition to Chiribichi and its vicinity, to avenge 

the murder of the monks and the devastation of 
Cubagua, — and, as a matter of course, to enslave 
Indians, This expedition was now on its way, 


and was expected at Porto Rico, when Las Casas 
arrived there ; and this is the news with which 
he was greeted. We may imagine the dismay 
that such tidings, appreciated by him in all their 
consequences, would cause in his mind. Fortu- 
nately for himself, he was one of those men who 
find some relief for their misfortunes in their in- 
dignation. Moreover, he probably entertained a 
hope that he would yet be able to prevent the 
mischief which he foresaw; and, accordingly, 
when the vessels arrived at Porto Rico, he showed 
his powers to Ocampo, whom the audiencia had Las Casas 
entrusted with the command, and endeavoured to detain 
detain the expedition. But Ocampo, with all due 
expressions of civility to Las Casas, said, that he 
must execute his orders, and that the audiencia 
would bear him harmless. The expedition ac- 
cordingly sailed on : and Las Casas, after distri- 
buting his labourers by threes and fours amongst 
the inhabitants of Porto Rico, hastened to St. 

His appearance there was very unwelcome. 
Indeed, from the exertions he had already made 
at the court of Spain and elsewhere in favour 
of the Indians, he was odious to all the Spanish 


colonists.* He endeavoured to carry things with 
a high hand, but met with the usual hindrances 
and vexations that he had endured both at home 
and abroad from his countrymen in office. They 
did not dare, however, to oppose him openly, 
clothed as he was with the King's authority, and 
having the reputation of being in favour with the 
all-powerful Flemish ministers. He demanded 
that a proclamation should be made of the Royal 
Order of which he was the bearer : namely — that 
no one should dare to injure or affront any of the 
natives of those provinces which were within the 
limits granted to the Clerigo Las Casas. If they 
did do so, it would be at the peril of the con- 
fiscation of all their goods, and even of their 
lives. This was proclaimed in the usual manner, 
with sound of trumpet, in the principal streets, 
the Admiral and all the chief authorities being 

He then demanded, that, with the least pos- 

* " El que muchos no quisieron ver porque ya era por 
todas estas tierras odioso por saber que pretendia libertar 
los Indios y librallos de las manos de sus matadores." — Las 
Casas, Hist, de las Indias, MS., lib. iii. cap. 156. 


sible delay, they should recal their fleet, discon- Efforts of 

, Las Casas 

tinue the war, and cause their troops to quit the to coun- 

. • teract 

territory which had been given in charge to him. Ocampo's 

Again, they did not dare to refuse openly, but 

made answer that they were about to take the 
matter into consideration: and many days they 
spent in discourse about it without their coming 
to any conclusion. 

Meanwhile, a counter attack was very skilfully 
made by the Clerigo's enemies, which term pro- 
bably included the whole population of the colony, 
with the exception of a few private friends, and 
of the Dominican monks, or any other persons in 
religious orders. There was a certain Biscayan 
shipwright who had two vessels of his own that 
were constantly engaged in the Cubaguan slave- 
trade, for so it may be called. This man no 
sooner saw Las Casas and knew the business 
upon which he had come, than, as the Clerigo 
expresses it, he would sooner have seen the Evil 
One. Scanning the ship of Las Casas with all 
the critical dislike of an enemy, the Biscayan 
pronounced that it was not sea-worthy, and that 
it could not be made sea-worthy. Here was a 
subject for enquiry which the authorities were 


willing should be investigated without delay. 
The King's subjects must not be permitted to 
go in vessels that were not sea-worthy. An 
examination was made, the hostile shipwright 
being, according to the Clerigo's recollection, one 
of the persons appointed to examine. The body 
thus constituted condemned the vessel, pro- 
nouncing it neither fit for navigation, nor cap- 
able of being made fit. " All this," as Las Casas 
declares, " was done to hinder the business of the 
Clerigo, as being odious to all ; for all, both 
judges and official men, had a share in the busi- 
ness of man-stealing." By the condemnation of 
his vessel, Las Casas lost what was worth to him 
500 pesos of gold, and, what were far more valu- 
able at the present juncture, — time, reputation, 
and the means of transit. 

Meanwhile, Ocampo had reached the port of 
Maracapana, in the territory of Gil Goncalez, 
where the Spaniard took a very crafty method 
of securing the chief men of that district. On 
approaching the coast, Ocampo kept all his men 
but a few of the sailors, under hatches. The 
Indians, on hailing the vessels, enquired whence 
they came, to which the Spaniards answered 


" Castilla." The Indians shouted out " Hayti, 
Hayti?" The Spaniards again replied "Castilla, 
Castilla," and made signs that they had wine and 
other things from Spain to barter. The Indians, 
thinking that they had to deal with Spaniards 
who did not know what had happened on that 
coast, no longer hesitated to enter the vessels and 
exchange goods. The Cacique himself, more wary 
than his followers, remained in a boat near to the 
vessel. But one of the sailors, who was an excel- 
lent swimmer, let himself down by a rope, sprung 
into the Cacique's canoe, plunged with him into 
the water, and, stabbing him in several places 
with a dagger, succeeded, with the help of some 
other sailors, in carrying him to the vessel. At 
the same time, a signal having been given on 
board, the concealed Spaniards rushed on deck, 
and the Indians in the vessel were captured. Gil Ocampo's 
Goncalez and the principal chiefs were hung from 
the yard-arm as an example of terror to the In- 
dians standing on the shore. Amongst these, it is 
said, was the Cacique of Cumana. Now Oeampo 
had on board the wife, or one of the wives, of this 
Cacique, named Donna Maria, who had been car- 
ried by Flores from Cubagua to Hispaniola. The 



Spanish Commander gave her liberty and set her 
on shore, and through her means peace was ulti- 
mately restored between the Spaniards and the 
Indians of that coast, but not until Ocampo had 
thoroughly chastized the latter, and captured 
many slaves ; carrying his incursions, I observe, 
into that mountainous country, the abode of the 
Tagares, where Ojeda had bought his maize and 
had committed the crime which caused the general 
rising of the inhabitants of the Pearl Coast. 

Las Casas soon learnt by the surest means 
what was going on in his province of Cumana, 
for, while he was endeavouring to adjust matters 
with the authorities of Hispaniola, Indian slaves 
were brought to St. Domingo, the first-fruits of 
Ocampo's campaigning. At this the Clerigo was 
excessively indignant : — to use his own expressive 
words — " he went raging, and with terrible 
sternness bore witness against this thing before 
the audiencia" * pouring out all manner of threats 
against them. They thought it better to come 

* " Viendolos venir el Padre Clerigo, rabiaba, y con 
terrible rigor lo detestava delante el Audiencia." — Las 
Casas, Hist, de las Indias, MS., lib. iii. cap. 156. 


to terms with him, and for this purpose they Scheme 

devised a plan which would not only remedy the audientia. 

past, but from which they might hope for some 

profit in the future. This was to offer to become 

partners with Las Casas in working out his grant 

from the King. They sent for him and made 

their proposition. He listened favourably to their Adopted by 

t s^ I jas Casas. 

terms; and it was finally agreed that Las Casas 
should go to the territories assigned to him ; and 
that the expedition which had been sent out under 
Ocampo should now be placed under the Clerigo's 
command. Accordingly, two vessels were fitted 
out for him, and well provisioned. Ocampo's 
expedition consisted of three hundred men : out 
of them Las Casas was to choose a hundred and 
twenty, who were to be paid wages: the rest 
were to be sent back. 

This agreement between the authorities of St. 
Domingo and Las Casas took the form of a com- 
mercial speculation. There was to be a company, 
and the venture was to be divided into twenty- 
four shares. The King was to have six shares 
in the concern, the Clerigo and his Knights six 
shares, the Admiral three shares, the Auditors, 
the Treasurer, the Contador and other official 


people, each a share. The means of profit were 
to be found in pearl-fishing, exchanging trifling 
commodities for gold, and making slaves, which 
last was a great object, for the following reason. 
Many of the principal persons in St. Domingo 
had bands of slaves employed under mayordomofe 
in the pearl fishery at Cubagua ; and human life 
was swiftly exhausted in procuring these diseased 
productions then so highly valued — the water 
mines, if we may so call them, being quite as 
injurious to the delicate Indian as those on land. 
A constant supply of slaves on the spot where 
their services were most valuable, was much to be 

This last mentioned means of profit was to be 
provided for in the following manner. Las Casas 
was to ascertain what Indians in those parts were 
cannibals, or would not be in amity and converse 
with the Spaniards, or would not receive the 
Faith and the preachers of it. Upon his pro- 
nouncing against the natives of any province 
upon either of the above points, these people 
were to be attacked by the hundred and twenty 
men under Ocampo, and were to be made slaves. 
Anybody who hoped that Las Casas would so 


pronounce must, as he intimates, have been some- 
what mistaken in their man.* 

The whole of this business must have been 
exceedingly distasteful to Las Casas ; but he saw 
no other way of accomplishing any part of his 
object, and prudently availed himself of this. 

Near at hand, there lay on his death-bed the 
man who, of all others, would have sympathized 
most with Las Casas in his efforts to civilize and 
convert the poor Indians of the Terra-firma. 
This was Pedro de Cordova, who, at the early 
age of thirty-eight, was now dying of consump- 
tion in the monastery of St. Domingo, worn out 
by the ascetic life he had led. We do not learn 
whether Las Casas was able to consult (( that 
servant of God," as he always calls him, about 

* " Y era tanta su ceguedad, que no advirtieron que 
habiendo andado cinco 6 seis anos el Clerigo (como todos 
sabian) trabajando y muriendo, yendo y viniendo a Castilla 
a Castilla, (sic in MS.) porque no hiciesen esclavos, y los 
que tenian heehos los libertasen, aunque fuesen de los Ca- 
ribes d que comian carne humana, oyendole afirmar que 
hacellos aquellos esclavos era tirania, que asi enganasen a 
si mismos, que pensasen que el Clerigo habia de ser causa 
de aquellas guerras." — Las Casas, Hist, de las Indias, MS., 
lib. iii. cap. 156. 


the expedition ; but, if he had done so, the dying 
Father could but have given one reply, as any- 
thing must have seemed advisable which pro- 
mised to hinder the outrages which the men in 
Ocampo's expedition were inflicting upon the 
natives of the Terra-firma. 
Death of Pedro de Cordova departed this life in May, 

Pedro de 

Cordova. 1521. We know, however, that he left one 
worthy to succeed him in his office, for it is men- 
tioned that Antonio Montesino, already well- 
known to the readers of this history, preached 
the funeral sermon on his late prelate, taking for 
the text, ef Behold, how good and how pleasant 
it is for brethren to dwell together in unity." 
This resolute and noble monk, the especial friend 
of the Indians, no doubt felt as his late prelate 
would have done about the project of Las Casas. 
Another motive, too, which would have ensured 
the concurrence of Pedro de Cordova, Antonio 
Montesino, or any of the Dominican fraternity in 
Hispaniola, with the plans of Las Casas was, that 
in him they were certain of a protector to any 
monastery they might found again at Chiribichi, 
to replace the one which had been swept away in 
the late outbreak of the Indians. 


Meanwhile the provisions were put on board 
the vessels intrusted to Las Casas by the audiencia 
of San Domingo. These provisions consisted of 
wine, oil, vinegar, and a great quantity of cheese 
from the Canary Islands. He had orders to go 
to the island of Mona, and take on board eleven 
hundred loaves of cassava bread from the King's 
stores in that island. He was also well provided 
with sea-stores of all kinds, and articles of mer- 
chandize ; and, everything being now ready, in Las Casas 

. sets sail, 

July of that year he set sail from San Domingo. July, 1521, 

Having received his cargo of bread at the 
island of Mona, he proceeded to Porto Rico for 
the labourers he had left there. But, as might have 
been expected, not a single man of them was to be what had 
found ; and the Clerigo had not even the comfort of his 

TO llO TSf £ 1*S 

of finding that his humble and simple followers 
had been employed in the cultivation of the earth, 
or in any good work, but he learnt that they had 
enlisted with certain freebooters, whose occupation 
it was to attack and pillage the Indians. It re- 
quires a large experience of mankind before we 
ascertain that gentle, simple, and ignorant people 
are not the best for keeping their promises. With 
some men it requires a certain training of the intel- 



the Terra- 


lect, or an acquaintance with discipline, to make 
them faithful and true. Had Las Casas been en- 
abled to bring out with him from Spain real knights, 
men worthy of wearing golden spurs, they might 
have been true to themselves and to him. Now 
he was left to prosecute his enterprize without 
any body of followers especially attached to him. 
Nothing was to be done, however, but to pro- 
ceed in his voyage to the Terra-firma. When he 
arrived there, he found, as might have been fore- 
seen, that Ocampo's men were pillaging and making 
slaves. They were in great want of provisions, 
as the Indians fled before them : and, without the 
assistance of the natives, the Spaniards were never 
able to purvey adequately for themselves. Ocampo 
was busy founding a town about half a league 
above the river Cumana, which he called Nueva 
Toledo; but even if it had been named New 
Seville, as Las Casas humorously remarks, the 
men would not have taken to it any the more. 
On the arrival of the Clerigo, they all resolved to 
avail themselves of the licence to return which 
had been granted beforehand for some of them, 
and to go home, having no fancy to continue with 
the Clerigo, being weary of the country, and 


looking upon him as a bad captain for marauding Ocampo's 

o • men w ^ 

expeditions. So fearful were they of being de- not stay 

with Las 

tained, that they would never come on shore all Casas. 
at once, but took care to leave twenty men, whom 
they could depend upon, in the ships. 

Furnishing them with provisions for the voy- 
age, Las Casas allowed them to go, but remained 
himself with a few servants and hired labourers. 
The polite and witty Ocampo, as might be ex- 
pected from the feelings that one gentleman would 
have for another, showed regret at leaving the 
Clerigo in this deserted state ; but was obliged, 
nevertheless, to take his departure. And now 
Las Casas, with his great projects, his immense 
territory, his scanty resources, was indeed alone. 
Never, perhaps, was there a position which the 
philanthropic part of mankind would have re- 
garded with more profound concern and more 
solicitous apprehension. 


Las Casas alone in the land — He is received into the 
Franciscan Monastery — Fate of his Colony. 

HE Dominican community, to whom 
of course Las Casas would first have 
turned, had, as it appears, been en- 
tirely swept away. The Franciscans, however, 
had returned, and they were the sole nucleus 
of Christianity and of civilization in that immense 
expanse of country, a seventh part of the whole 
world. People are often seeking for romance in 
all kinds of fiction ; but how really romantic such 
a situation as this was! The light from that 
monastery, the sound of its bell amidst the wil- 
derness of idolatry, what signs of hope they 
were — which angels might have watched with 
unspeakable joy, and yet with apprehension. 
It must have been no little comfort to Las 



Casas, at this juncture, to find that the Franciscans 

had already repaired the ruin which had fallen 

upon them, together with the rest of the Spaniards 

in that part of the country. The monks must 

have re-established themselves under Ocampo's 

protection ; and it does not seem as if their 

monastery could have suffered anything like the 

devastation which had come upon the unfortunate 

and equally innocent Dominicans. 

When the Franciscans heard of the Clerigo's The Fran- 
ciscans re- 
arrival, they came out to meet him with great ceiveLas 

joy, chanting a Te Deum. Their little monas- 
tery was on the river-side,* " a cross-bow-shot " 
from the sea-shore. It was constructed of wood 
and thatched with straw ; and it had a pleasant 
garden with orange trees, vines, and melons in it. 
Las Casas built a large storehouse adjoining the 
monastery, and there he stowed away his goods. 
The first thing he did was to convey his message 
of peace to the Indians, which he accomplished 
by means of Donna Maria (before mentioned as 
the wife of the Cacique of Cumana), who knew 
something of the Spanish language. Through 

* The river Cumana, now called the Manzanares. 


He sends a this woman Las Casas informed the Indians that 

message or 

peace to the h e had been sen t by the new King of Spain, and 
that henceforth they were to experience nothing 
but kind treatment and good works from the 
Christians, as an earnest of which, he sent them 
some of the presents which he had brought from 
Castille, to gain their friendship. 

The founding of a colony is always one of the 
most interesting things in the world ; and it is 
surprizing that rich and powerful men in our own 
times do not more frequently give themselves to 
such splendid undertakings. But, in this par- 
ticular case, the interest is doubled, from the 
feeling that the leader is no mere adventurer and 
has no private ambition, but is trying a great 
experiment for the good of the world. Moreover, 
one is always curious to see a man in a position 
which he has long sought for, where he has in 
some measure to fulfil the day-dreams of his life. 
The first proceedings of Las Casas seem to have 
been judicious ; and, altogether, though this set- 
tlement at Cumana was but a little one, a mere 
fragment of the great undertaking which Las 
Casas had originally designed, still much might 
have been hoped from it, if there had been no 



Spaniards near to hinder the good work. Un- 
fortunately, however, there was the island of 
Cubagua at a short distance from the coast, and, 
as there was no fresh water there, the Spaniards, 
engaged in pearl-fishing near that island, had a 
motive for coming frequently to the river Cumana 
in the main land, which was but seven leagues off. 
Las Casas, thinking to have some curb upon 
these Spaniards, engaged with a master mason at 
the rate of ten ducats a month, to build a fort at 
the mouth of the river ; but the Spaniards of the 
island, the " apostles of Cubagua," as Las Casas 
sarcastically calls them, soon perceived the drift 
of the Clerigo's building, and the builder was 
bribed, or persuaded, by them, to desist from his 
work. The visits, therefore, of the Spaniards to 
the mainland were as uncontrolled as ever. The 
Indians had no love for these visitors, but then 
they brought wine with them, and this won over 
even those Indians who had most distaste to the 
Spaniards. And, just as a child cannot handle 
with any safety the arms of a grown-up man, so 
there is always danger for a people when, without 
fit preparation, it comes to use the products of an 
older state, whether it be strong wine, or a well- 


at Cubagui 
a great 




in which 
the Indians 
their own 

compacted political constitution. To obtain this 
all- seducing wine, which, or the like of which, 
has ever proved the subtlest and most destruc- 
tive weapon against aborigines, clearing them off 
as fire consumes the dry herbage of the prairie, the 
Indians brought gold and slaves to the Spaniards, 
the slaves being youths and simple persons. 

Of the light way in which such simple persons 
were made slaves among the Mexicans, and pro- 
bably among these Indians too, we have a curious 
instance in the letter of Rodrigo de Albornoz to 
the Emperor in 1525.* He says, that "for very 
little things and almost in jest they became slaves 
to one another," and, as an instance, he mentions 
that when he was once officially examining some 
slaves, he asked one of them the origin of his 

* " Dijo que no, sino que un dia que ellos estavan en 
sus areitos, que es su fiesta, tania uno un ataval que ellos 
usan en sus fiestas, como los de Espana 1 que le tomo gana 
de taiier en el, i que el dueno no se lo quiso dexar taner 
si no se lo pagaba, 1 como el no tenia que le dar, dixo seria 
su esclavo, 1 el otro le dejd taner aquel dia, 1 de alii ade- 
lante quedd por su esclavo 1 despues le havia vendido tres 
d quatro veces." — Al Emperador Carlos 5°. Rodrigo de 
Albornoz, en Temistitan a 15 de diciembre, de 1525. — ■ 
Coleccion de Munoz, MS., torn. 77. 


slavery, — whether he was the son of slave pa- 
rents, for instance ; and the Indian replied, " No, 
but that one day when they were in the midst 
of their areitos, which is their festival, a man 
was beating an ataval, which they use in their 
feasts, like those of the Spaniards, and that he 
wished very much to play upon it, and that the 
owner would not let him without being paid for 
it; as he had nothing to give, he said that he 
would be his slave, and the other let him play the 
instrument for that one day, and thenceforward 
he was the other's slave." And Albornoz tells 
the Monarch, that the existence of such light 
modes of creating slavery is a thing to be con- 
sidered " for the sake of Your Majesty's con- 
science as well as of Your Majesty's service." 

But to return to the Cubaguans. — There is no 
doubt that their frequent communication with the 
Indians of Cumana was likely to be fatal to the 
plans of the Clerigo: and so he felt it to be. 
Their conduct was a practical denial of his mes- 
sage from the King. He went to Cubagua and 
made most forcible appeals (requerimientos terribles) 
to the Alcalde there : but all to no effect. The 
chief monk of the Franciscans, Padre Joan de 



Las Casas 
advised to 
go to St. 

Garceto, saw the matter in the same light as Las 
Casas, and urged him to go to St. Domingo and 
to appeal to the audiencia, in order to provide 
some remedy for the evils arising from the visits 
of the Cubaguans. Two vessels were lading with 
salt, and the Clerigo, he said, could go in one of 
them, which would be ready to sail in a month. 
Las Casas did not see the need for his going ; but 
the Franciscan Father was very urgent about it. 
Every day they had mass and prayers for inspira- 
tion in this matter, and discoursed upon it after 
prayers. Father Garceto, with true Flemish per- 
severance, never swerved from his opinion, or from 
the same expression of it, winding up the discourse 
by saying, ".It does not appear to me, Sir, but 
that you have to go and seek a remedy for these 
evils, in the cessation of which so much is at 

But Las Casas was naturally very unwilling to 
leave his territory without the protection, slight 
as it might be, of his presence; and, besides, 

* " No me parece, Senor, sino que vos habeis de ir a 
buscar el remedio de estos males en cuya cessacion tanto 
va." — Las Casas, Hist, de las Indias, MS., lib. iii. cap. 157. 


though this was a small matter, he had been en- 
trusted with no small amount of merchandize. 
He accordingly prepared two sets of papers : — one 
being a memorandum naming Francisco de Soto 
captain in the Clerigo's absence, and giving him 
the necessary instructions ; and the other being a 
despatch, in which an appeal was made to the 
audiencia of St. Domingo for protection from the 
visits of the Spaniards at Cubagua. This course 
left it open to Las Casas to change his mind at 
the final moment of the departure of the ships. 
At last the day came when it must be decided 
whether Las Casas was to go or not. Mass was 
said as usual, and the friends afterwards took 
counsel together as they were accustomed ; when 
Father Garceto pronounced his unvarying opi- 
nion — " Sir,, you have to go, and by no means to Father 

„ Garceto's 

remain. pertinacity. 

Overcome by this perseverance on the part of the 
Franciscan, which the Clerigo thought might be 
an expression of the will of God, he yielded, but 
still was not convinced. God knows," he ex- 
claimed, "how much I do this against my judg- 
ment and also against my will, but I am willing 
to do it, since it seems good to your Reverence ; 


and if it be an error, I would rather err upon the 
opinion of another man, than succeed by taking 
my own. Wherefore I hope in God that, since I 
do not do this thing for any other intent than to 
perform my duty in that which I have undertaken 
for His service, He will convert even error into 
advantage." Hereupon we may remark, that 
a man seldom makes so signal a blunder as when 
he acts exceptionally, and contradicts the usual 
tenour of his life and character. Las Casas was 
not wont to defer much to other men's opinions, 
and why he should have given way to this 
good Franciscan, who knew much less of the 
world than the Clerigo did, is scarcely explicable, 
except upon the ground that the Franciscan's 
arguments were so weak, and his opinions so 
strong, as to give an appearance of mysterious 
significance to it, before which a pious man like 
Las Casas would be more likely to bow than to a 
Las Casas well-connected train of reasoning. However, the 

quits his . . . . 

colony. decision was now arrived at, and he set sail in 

the salt- carrying vessel bound for St. Domingo, 
having parted from the Franciscan monks with 
great grief on their part, and he not being a man. 



as he well says, alluding to his affectionate dispo- 
sition, to feel less grief on his part.* 

Las Casas was not fortunate, perhaps not wise, 
in his choice of agents. Francisco de Soto was 
a good and prudent man, but poor ; and the 
Clerigo assigns to this poverty all the evils which 
De Soto was the cause of. The first thing after 
the departure of Las Casas that Francisco de Soto 
did, notwithstanding the express written orders (a 
copy of which orders De Soto had signed) of 
his master to the contrary, was to send away the DeSoto 
only two boats the little colony had, to traffic for 
pearls, gold, and even for slaves, as some believe. 
Now the Clerigo, aware to some extent of the 
temper of the Indians, had given orders to De 
Soto, not on any account to send away these 
boats, so that if he should perceive symptoms of 
hostility in the Indians, he might be able to em- 
bark the men and goods in these boats, or the 
men at least, if there were not time to embark 
the goods, and thus to save the little colony. One 

* "Asi se partio con harto dolor de los Frailes, no siendo 
el qui el llevaba menos." — Las Casas, Hist, de las Indias, 
MS., lib. iii. cap. 157. 



of danger 
from the 

of these boats was fitted with sails; the other was 
a Moorish rowing-boat with many oars, which the 
Indians in their language called " the centipede/ 
and of which they were much afraid. 

The Indians had not had time to appreciate the 
motives or the purposes of Las Casas. Nothing 
but evil had hitherto come to them from converse 
with the Spaniards. The pearl-fishers of Cu- 
bagua had not ceased to molest the natives of 
Cumana ; and now, whether moved by former, 
yet recent, injuries, or by new insults received 
after the Clerigo's departure ; or whether, as he 
also conjectures, they were by the decrees of 
Providence not destined to receive the blessings 
of the gospel, they resolved to make an onslaught 
upon the settlement. Twelve days had not 
elapsed since Las Casas had sailed, before the 
Franciscan brotherhood discerned the symptoms 
of coming danger ; and they asked Donna Maria 
whether their suspicions were just or not, to 
which, as some of her countrymen were present, 
who might make out something of the conversa- 
tion, she replied with her voice " No," but with 
her eyes she said " Yes." 

At this point of time a Spanish vessel touched 


at the coast, and the servants of the Clerigo 
begged to be taken on board ; but, whether from 
fear or malice, the masters of the vessel would 
not listen to the request ; and the little colony- 
was left to its fate. 

The poor Franciscan monks and the Clerigo's 
lieutenant roamed about now in all the agony of 
fear and indecision, endeavouring to find out, by 
going from one Indian hut to another, when the 
blow was to take place. On the fourteenth day 
after the departure of Las Casas, they discovered 
that the attack was to be made on the following 
morning ; and then at last they resolved to fortify 
the monastery and the adjoining storehouse. 
With that purpose they placed round the building The Span 
the twelve or fourteen guns which they pos- 
sessed; but on examination they found at this 
critical juncture that their powder was damp. 

Early on the ensuing morning, (this was now 
the third day after warning had come to them 
from the eyes of the kind-hearted Indian woman), 
and while they were drying their powder in the 
sun, the Indians with a terrible war-whoop 
rushed down upon them. Two or three of the 

for defence. 




from the 

Clerigo's servants were killed at the first onset : 
the rest, with the Franciscans, made good the 
entrance to the monastery. The Indians, how- 
ever, succeeded in setting it on fire. But fortu- 
nately there was a postern door that led into the 
enclosed garden before mentioned, which was 
surrounded by a hedge of canes. Another door 
from the garden led out upon the bank of the 
river. At the moment of attack Francisco de 
Soto happened to be in the Indian pueblo of 
Cumana, which was situated on the sea shore, a 
very short distance from the monastery. As soon 
as he perceived what was going on, he fled to the 
monastery, but in his flight was wounded by a 
poisoned arrow. He succeeded, however, in 
making his way into the garden with the other 
Spaniards. At the distance of a " stone's-throw " 
there was a little creek, where the monks had a 
canoe of their own which would hold fifty persons. 
They gained this canoe, and pushed off down the 
river, while the Indians thought they were being 
burnt in the monastery. The number of persons 
in the canoe was about fifteen, or twenty, includ- 
ing all of Las Casas's servants and all the Fran- 
ciscan monks, with the exception of one lay- 


brother, who at the first war-whoop of the Indians 

had fled, and thrown himself into a bed of canes. 

He now made his appearance high up upon the 

bank : his friends in the boat did their utmost to 

get to the place where he was, but the stream 

was very strong against them. He, poor man, 

very nobly made signs to them, not to attempt 

to return ; and they left him to his fate. All 

this must have taken some time, and the Indians 

now caught sight of the boat. Instantly they 

manned a light boat of their own, lighter than 

the canoe, called a piragua, set off in pursuit, 

and soon gained upon the Spaniards, whose 

object was to pull for the port of Araya, two 

leagues and a half across the gulf (of Cariaco). 

They pulled as men pulling for their lives, but 

the swift piragua still gained upon them; and 

they had not proceeded more than a league, when 

they saw that their only chance was to take to 

the shore again, and throw themselves into one 

of the dense beds of cactus with which that coast 

abounds. The piragua and the canoe landed not 

" a quoit's-throw " from each other. Happily there 

was time enough for the Spaniards to take refuge Escape 

amongst the cactuses, pervious only to despair, Spaniards. 


but otherwise hardly to be penetrated by a fully- 
armed man. The Indians were naked, and though 
they made great efforts to get at the Spaniards 
in this " thorn fortress," they could not do so,* 
though they were at one time very near to them, 
so near that Father Joan Garceto lived to tell 
Las Casas, — how one Indian was close upon him, 
and lifted up his club (rnacana) to kill him, and 
the Father bent his knees, and shut his eyes, and 
raised his heart to God ; but when he looked up, 
there was no one. Finally, in the course of the 
next day, they got to their countrymen's ships. 
De Soto died of the wounds which he had re- 
ceived, as the arrows were poisoned. The other 
servants of Las Casas, all but the two or three 
who perished at the first onset, together with 
the Franciscans, arrived in a short time at St. 

All this happened in little more than a fort- 
night after the Clerigo's departure. Meanwhile, 

* " Y corao los Indios eran, de los pies a las cabezas, 
desnudos, estubieron niucho tiempo en llegar aquella poca 
distancia en donde estaban los Seglares y Frailes. Y pa- 
rece que Labia tanta espesura que no pudieron menearse." — 
Las Casas, Hist, de las Indicts, MS., lib. iii. cap. 158. 


he himself had been carried by the ignorance of 
his mariners far beyond the port of St. Domingo : 
he had to Waste two months in beating against 
contrary currents; and finally he landed on an- 
other part of the island of Hispaniola. As he 
was travelling thence to St. Domingo in com- 
pany with other persons, and they were taking 
their siesta on the bank of a river, and he was 
asleep under a tree, a party from the city came 
up to them, and, being asked the news, said that 
the Indians of the Pearl Coast had killed the 
Clerigo Bartolome de Las Casas and all his house- 
hold. Those who journeyed with the Clerigo 
said, " We are witnesses that that is impossible." 
While they were disputing, Las Casas awoke to Las Casas 

learns the 

hear this news; and, versed in misfortune as he fate of his 

was, this must have been the most fatal intelli- 
gence he ever received, and the most difficult to 
bear, for, though he was sure enough that some 
of it was untrue, yet he could easily divine that 
some terrible disaster had happened to his little 
colony. Afterwards, he came to look upon the 
event as a judgment upon him for having acted 
in company with men whose only object had been 
self- enrichment, saying, " that though God uses 



human means to bring about his ends, yet that 
such helps (adminiculos) are not needed for- 
preaching the gospel." " Still," as he urges on 
the other side, " if he was in such haste to accept 
the offer of the audiencia, it was but to prevent 
the slaughter and destruction which Ocampo's 
expedition was occasioning." 

Meanwhile, in great anxiety to hear the whole 
of the bad news, he approached the city of St. 
Domingo, and when near there, some " good 
Christians," friends of his, came out to meet and 
console him, offering him money, even as much 
as four or five thousand ducats, for a new attempt 
to colonize. 

But none was to be made ; and here, not with- 
out much regret at such a termination, we take 
leave of any further hopes from the Clerigo's 
noble attempt at colonization; and must content 
ourselves with being rejoiced that he returned in 
safety from the Indians of the Pearl Coast, who 
little knew the disservice they had been doing to 
their ill-fated race, in thrusting away from them 
its greatest benefactor. 


Las Casas becomes a Dominican Monk — He devotes himself 
to Literature. 

HE transactions narrated in the pre- 
ceding chapter did not pass without 
much comment, and, amongst other 
comment, that of contemporary historians, who 
have given a most unjust and inaccurate version 
of the whole affair. It affords them great amuse- 
ment to talk of the "smock-frock soldiers" of the 
Clerigo, and of the labourers dressed like Knights 
of Calatrava ; but, as we have seen from his own 
account, which he says is 

verdad pura), none of these labourers went to poraries 
Cumana, and, if they had gone there, it was not 
from their body that the knights were to have 
been chosen. There were also other statements 

the pure truth" (la Comments 
of contem- 




from the 
author to 
Las Casas : 
ex post 

made by these historians equally false, which Las 
Casas takes the pains of refuting. 

If the writer of this narrative may be per- 
mitted to fancy himself addressing Las Casas 
(and a fearful consideration it is, that biographers 
and the people they write about may some day 
be brought into each others' presence), he would 
say, " You need not have spent so many pages of 
your valuable history in confuting what has been 
written on the subject of your expedition, with 
manifest ill-nature, by Gomara, or, in the spirit 
of mere worldliness, by Oviedo. But I should 
like to suggest to you (having been made wise by 
the event), that, when you had once collected this 
body of labourers together, and had brought them 
to Porto Rico, you should not have let them 
disperse ; but, instead of going to the audiencia 
at St. Domingo (never likely to be friendly to 
you), to prevent the ill effects of Ocampo's expe- 
dition, you should have accompanied him at once 
to Cumana. 

" It was certain that his expedition would 
render the Indians intolerant of your designs ; 
and you could hardly hope to be in time to check 
his proceedings by orders from St. Domingo. 


Besides, according to your own account, Ocampo 
was a witty, gracious, agreeable man, an old 
friend of yours ; and had you accompanied him 
on the voyage, and told him the real feelings 
of powerful people at court, and then addressed 
such offers of personal advantage to himself, as 
I think you might have made, you would perhaps 
have gained him over. Then at the head of your 
two or three hundred colonists, and with your 
own vessels and outfit, you would have been 
more powerful than you ever were afterwards, 
though armed with letters from the audiencia. 
T speak, as I said before, with all the easy wis- 
dom gained by knowing the event; and am 
aware of the foolishness of most criticism upon 
action. Moreover, I can thoroughly understand 
your aversion to bring your great scheme into 
any contact with what was avowedly an avenging, 
and was likely to be a marauding, expedition. 

" I forbear to dwell much upon your rare and 
unfortunate modesty in yielding to the advice of 
Father Garceto, and forsaking your little colony, 
at a time when the presence of one earnest and 
vigorous man was worth a wilderness of orders 
from the audiencia, which, as you must have 



known, lost some of their force in every league 
that they were borne from the centre of autho- 
rity, until at last in the llanos, or the forests, of 
the Terra-firma, these missives were little better 
than so much waste-paper." 

From the molestation of such remarks, in 
which, however, criticism is meant to be tern- 
Las Casas pered by profound respect, Las Casas was, in 

informs the „,,*.,. n -r-r i 

King of Lis all probability, quite tree. He wrote to the 
King, to Cardinal Adrian (by this time advanced 
to the Papacy, though Las Casas did not know 
it), and to his other Flemish friends, to tell them 
what had happened ; and then waited until their 
answers should arrive from Spain. 

His thoughts at this period of his life must 
have been very bitter, — crowded with infinite 
regrets, and full of fearful anticipations. The 
prize that had been ever hovering before him 
was so great — the safety and pacification of vast 
territories and numerous populations: — the hin- 
derances that had fatally thwarted him were so 
disproportionately, so malignantly small. The 
truth is, that for great enterprises, and even in 
the conduct of common life, it seems as if two 


souls were needed : the one to watch, while the 
other sleeps; one to do the worldly work, the 
other the spiritual ; and each to cheer the other 
with a perfect sympathy. Had Las Casas met 
with but one man having a soul like his own, 
who would have been a real lieutenant to him, 
the obstacles in his way, fearful as they were, 
might have been doubled, and yet his end have 
been attained. But what could be hoped from 
men like Berrio or De Soto, who manifestly pos- 
sessed none, or next to none, of the spirit and 
intelligence of their leader ? 

Harmonious conjoint action was then, as it is 
now, the greatest difficulty in the world. 

Happily, there is an end to all things. Human 
endeavour ends in conquest, or in defeat, and, in 
case of either being carried to an extreme, is apt 
to sink into insensibility. There is the swooning 
limit to mental, as well as to bodily, endurance. 
It is most picturesque, and seems grandest, when 
this is the death-swoon ; and when a man's good 
fortunes, his energies, and his life all unite in 
falling down together before some great calamity. 
And, if such had now been the case with the 
heroic Clerigo, it could have been no matter of 


surprise to any one who had traced his career up 
to this fatal period. 

Of his power to endure and to persevere, the 
history of the Indies, if faithfully told, will con- 
vince every reader. Indeed, in this power lay 
the peculiarity of his character, and it was that 
which marked him out from other men of his time 
as much perhaps as his benevolence. This kind 
of perseverance is much more rare than people 
suppose, and is so hard to maintain, that we can- 
not but admire even bad men, who silently, reso- 
lutely, enduringly pursue some evil object of self- 
interest, or mere glory, through long and toilsome 
The rarity years. Rarer even than profound attention in 
verance the intellect is this kind of pertinacity in the 

in a great . 

cause. moral powers. ii<acn day brings its own interests 

with it, and makes its claims very loudly upon 
the men of that day. But a man with a great 
social purpose, like Las Casas, has to work on at 
something, which, for any given day, appears 
very irrelevant and makes him seem very obtru- 
sive. This unwelcome part he must perform 
amidst the disgust and weariness of all other 
people, — through weeks, months, years perhaps, 
of the most dire discouragement, — when all the 



with a sub- 
ject apt to 
destroy all 
care about 

while life seems too short for a great purpose, and 
when he feels the tide of events ebb by him, and 
nothing accomplished. The spectre of Death 
cowers in his pathway, and, whenever he has 
time to think away from his subject, occurs to 
threaten him. But all these vexations and hin- 
derances are as nothing when compared with the Mucb con 
weariness and want of elastic power which arise 
from that terrible familiarity with their subject, 
which, in the case of most persons, unless they 
have very deep and very imaginative souls, grows 
over and incrusts, like a fungus, the life of their 
original purposes. There are everywhere men of 
an immense capacity for labour, if their duties 
are such as come to them day by day to be done, 
and are connected with self-advancement or re- 
nown ; but that man is somewhat of a prodigy 
who is found, in self-appointed labour, as earnest, 
as strenuous, and as fresh for his work, as those 
who receive impulses daily renewed which keep 
them up to their appointed tasks. 

Such considerations demand our attention when 
contemplating the career of such a remarkable 
man as Las Casas. The age in which he lived 
was one of singular movement; and his was a 


mind capable of great versatility, and inclined 
to take an interest in many things. Wars with 
France, conquests in Italy, contests with Eng- 
land, civil commotions about the liberties of the 
Spanish Parliaments, the suppression of heretics, 
dire strife throughout the Germanic Empire, and 
hard-contested battles with the Moors, were all of 
them subjects, that in their turn agitated Charles 
the Fifth and his ministers. Vast discoveries of 
unknown lands, unheard-of treasures in gold and 
precious stones, new animals, new men, new trees, 
the most wild and fanciful forms of life, extraor- 
dinary changes of fortune, and romantic adven- 
tures, were the daily topics in the Indies. This 
remarkable man, Las Casas, heard all these things, 
Las Casas sympathized with all men's feelings about them ; 

alone with 

his subject but hardly, I conceive, for any single day, omitted 

amidst the 

turmoil of to do something in promoting the fixed purpose 

the Empire. t 

of his life. Walking about amongst his fellow 
men in that tremendous and saddening solitude in 
which a great idea enwraps a great man ; feeling 
that all his efforts, even if successful, might be so 
too late; it is to be wondered that such a man 
retained his sanity, and that we are cognizant but 
of one long fit of dire despondency in a life of 

OF LAS CAS AS. . 169 

such unwearied effort, such immense successes, 
and such overpowering disappointments. 

The present was the lowest point of depres- 
sion that the resolute mind of Las Casas ever 

In recounting the latter part of his story as Deapond- 

, . .11 • enc y °f 

a colonist, a certain hopelessness creeps m upon Las Casas, 

his narrative. Perhaps the Indians are by the 

profound ways of Providence ordained to be 

destroyed, as many other nations have been ; 

perhaps the Spaniards are not to be saved from 

the commission of great wickedness and from 

decay of their power; perhaps his own merits 

were not such as to warrant his being the man 

chosen to save the one nation, or to redeem the 

other.* Thus he argues. He intimates that he 

should have gone back to Spain to seek new 

* " Pero en la verdad no se lo puso Dios en el corazon 
que fuese, 6 porque el no lo merecio, d porque aquellas 
gentes segun los profundos juicios divinos se habian con 
otras muchas de perder, 6 porque tambien los facinerosos 
pecados de nuestra Nation que en aquellas gentes han 
cometido, no se habian tan presto de fenecer." — Las Casas, 
Hist, de las Indias, MS., lib. iii. cap. 159. 


remedies, had he possessed the means ; and that, 
if he had done so, the whole course of events in 
the Indies might have been greatly changed for 
the better. I think it is evident, however, that 
it was not strictly want of means (did not his 
friends come out to meet him, proffering money?), 
but that the hopeful spirit, which had been the 
mainstay of his life, was now deficient in him. 
Had he been a weak, a selfish, or not a religious 
man, he would have been absolutely broken- 
hearted. He was probably as utterly cast down 
as a good man can be : and I conjecture that he 
suffered under that abject, nervous depression 
which results from extreme distress of mind 
or prolonged overwork, and which none, but 
those who have suffered something like it, can 

There are but small indications of the mental 

sufferings which Las Casas went through at this 

Las Casas period of his life. As a gentleman, a scholar, an 

display his ecclesiastic, above all, as a Castillian, Las Casas 

grief. , _ . 

was not likely to spread out the sorrows of his 
soul on the pages of his history ; but enough is 
there, even in the restrained tone of the narra- 
tive, to show how his ardent nature must for 



tbe moment have been crushed into torpor by- 

The kind Dominicans, his old friends, received 
him into their monastery. There I fancy him His 

... -, , . , . , thoughts 

sitting m some retired nook in their garden, in the 

. monastery. 

thinking at times of the similar garden at Cu- 
mana, or of the court at Barcelona, Valladolid, or 
Saragossa, and the great men he had seen and 
heard there ; — then of his old enemy the Bishop 
of Burgos, whereupon the tears come into his 
eyes, for, in the bitterest encounters, there is a 
tenderness which is to come out hereafter. And, 
besides, he thinks the Bishop would not exult 
over him now, but would be rather sorry than 
otherwise. He has sat so long (the once restless 
man !) that the timid lizard has hurriedly rustled 
by him many times. And now, with measured 
step, comes one of his kind hosts, and seats him- 
self on the bench beside him, — a certain Father Father Be 

•r» ™ • o tanzos and 

Betanzos, whom the Olengo had known for several Las Casas, 
years, a grey-haired young man, grey from his 
terrible penances in other lands, who was after- 
wards a most prominent figure in the history 
of the New World. And now the good monk, 
alluding perhaps to some speech which the Clerigo 


had uttered in the first bitterness of his disap- 
pointment, about retiring from the world, exalts 
the theme, impresses upon him the paramount 
necessity for a man to consider his own soul and 
what he can do to save that, tells him he has done 
enough for the Indians, and delicately hints that 
the Clerigo does not seem to be the chosen vessel 
for the conversion of these nations : to which, in 
his intense humiliation, Las Casas makes but a 
poor reply, and, indeed, thinks it must all be true. 
And then the severe young monk moves away, 
quite satisfied that he has done a very serviceable 
thing for the soul of his friend. 

Whether the rest of the above picture is to 
the life, or not, at any rate we know that the 
brethren did solicit him to become one of them- 
selves. He pleaded that he had written to the 
King, to Cardinal Adrian, and to others of his 
Flemish friends; and that he must await their 
answers. " What will it profit you, if you should 
die before their answers come?" replied Father 
Betanzos.* From this it appears as if Las Casas 

# " Respondio el buen padre, si entre tanto vos os moris, 
quien rescivira el mandato del Key 6 sus Cartas?" — Las 
Casas, Hist de las Indias, MS., lib. iii. cap. 159. 


had been ill, although he mentions no illness at 
this point of his narrative. I conjecture, there- 
fore, that it was the temporary abeyance of the 
energy within him, which looked like the pre- 
cursor of death. Hopeless for the moment of 
gaining his great object, sick of the world, and 
beginning to ponder more frequently on the state 
of his soul, # he yielded to the wishes of the 
friendly monks, and in 1522 received the tonsure 
from Father Betanzos, to the great joy of the LasCasas 

takes the 

brethren, and also of the inhabitants of St. Do- tonsure, 


mingo, but for very different reasons, as he 
remarks — the former no doubt rejoicing to gain 
a distinguished and good man for their brother- 
hood, the latter delighting to see a man interred, 
as they thought, in a monastery, who had been in 
the habit of hindering them in all the robberies 
and wickedness which they had been wont to 
commit for their " iniquitous temporal interests." 

Afterwards letters for him did come from court, Not for- 

i i • i • i . gotten by 

breathing kind encouragement and invitation from his friends 

at court. 

* " Estas palabras le atrave saron el alma al Clerigo 
Casas, y desde alii comenzo a pensar mas frequentemente 
de su estado." — Las Casas, Hist, de las Indias, MS., lib. iii. 
cap. 159. 


his friends the Flemings; but his superiors did 
not show him these letters, for fear of disquieting 
his mind. Letters also came from Pope Adrian 
for the Clerigo, but it was when he could no 
longer dispose of himself.* If he had gone to 
Spain, it is probable, as he would have found King 
Charles there, that he might have succeeded. in 
some new enterprise of colonization.! But this 

* " Y el mismo Papa Adriano tambien le mando escri- 
bir, sino que llegaron las Cartas cuando ya no podia deter - 
minar de si." — Las Casas, Hist, de las Indicts, MS., lib. iii. 
cap. 159. 

"j* Las Casas would have been well able to prove that his 
failure had not arisen from any palpable fault of his. Al- 
though his own history has been the authority mainly 
referred to in the foregoing account of his attempt at 
colonization, it entirely coincides with what remains of 
the official narrative, sent in to the Emperor by his Ma- 
jesty's contador, who accompanied Las Casas. This officer 
describes the opposition which Las Casas met with from 
the Governor of Cubagua, the desertion of Oeampo's 
armada, the ruin that on three occasions fell upon the 
monks, who, he says, have received glorious deaths Qian 
recibido muertes admirables ,•) and he estimates the number 
of slaves at 600, who were made on that coast previously 
to Las Casas reaching it. " VI en la Espanola que en obra 
de dos meses se trajeron mas de seiscientos esclavos de do 
habia de ir Casas y venderlos por los oficiales en Santo 


was not to be ; and he remained in the monastery 
of St. Domingo, moving in the narrow circle of 
his duties there, and, as we are told, writing his 
history * of the Indies. 

Profiting so much as we do by this history, 

Domingo." — Representation del Contactor Real {Miguel 
Castellanos) que fue con Casas a Cumana. — Quintana, 
Apendices a la Vida de Las Casas, No. 9. 

* It is generally said by Quintana, and other learned 
men, that Las Casas commenced his history at this period 
in the monastery of St. Domingo. Their assertion may be 
founded upon some fact which has escaped my observation. 
The only dates I can refer to, in reference to this point, 
where Las Casas speaks of the times of his writing, are as 
follows. In the Prologue there is a passage, quoted below, 
in which he speaks as if that were written in 1552. In 
lib. iii. cap. 155, he mentions the year 1560, as the time of 
his writing ; and, in the last sentence but one of his history, 
lie gives the date 1561, as the time at which he is then 
waiting. " No puede alguno rehusar con razon de con- 
ceder hacerse hoy que es el ano de 1552 las mismas calami- 
tosas obras que en los tiempos pasados se cometian." He 
may, however, at a very early period, have begun to collect 
and prepare his materials for writing, amongst which may 
be numbered some of the most valuable documents that 
ever existed as sources of early American history. The 
one which I should most like to have seen was Tovillds 
Historia Barbarica, of which, I believe, there is now no 


still it must be regretted that Las Casas should 
have been thus occupied ; and, however desirable 
it might be that he should regard his soul, I can- 
not but regret, in somewhat of a secular spirit, 
that he should have been taken away for the 
present from the civil administration of the Indies, 
which gained one more devout man, and lost that 
much rarer character, a profoundly and perse- 
veringly philanthropic reformer, of which latter 
character the Indies had then far more need than 
all the rest of the world put together. 

It is doubtful, moreover, whether his studies 

at the monastery did not do far more harm than 

Studies of good to his faculty for historical writing. It must, 

Las Casas 

in the I conjecture, have been at this period, that he 


studied those works which enabled him to confuse 
his narrative with inappropriate learning. Before 
his becoming a monk, I imagine he knew little of 
what Pliny, Diodorus Siculus, Dionysius Hali- 
carnassensis, Aristotle, the Master of the Sen- 
tences, or other learned writers, whose names infest 
his pages, had said upon any subject. It is not 
to be forgotten, however, that, while Las Casas 
dwelt in monastic retreat, he probably acquired 
that knowledge of the Fathers and the School- 



men, which enabled him to battle so successfully 
before kings and princes with the most learned 
persons of his time, using the favourite scholastic 
weapons of that age. 

Las Casas 
in the Do- 

What had 
in the 
while Las 
Casas was 
in his 


Las Casas in the Dominican monastery — His studies — He 
goes to Mexico — Establishes himself in the monastery a\ 
Santiago de Guatemala — He proposes to conquer the 
" Land of War" with the aid of his monks. 

AS CASAS remained for eight years 
in the Dominican monastery of His- 
paniola, during which time he led a 
life of extreme seclusion. In these eight years 
the bounds of the Indian Empire had been im- 
mensely enlarged. Cortes had completed his 
conquest of New Spain, Alvarado had conquered 
Guatemala, Pizarro had commenced the con- 
quest of Peru, and the captains or the rivals 
of Peclrarias, exceeding all other Spaniards in 
cruelty, had devastated the fertile regions of Ni- 
caragua.* Las Casas must have heard about all 

* See Las Casas, Brevissima Relacion de la destruycion 
de las Indias, " De la Provincia de Nicaragua" p. 14. 


these transactions, and we can well imagine what 
he must have thought of them. For five years 
of his life — namely, from 1522 to 1527, there is 
but one fact known about him ; but that one is 
very significant. It is that he was not allowed 
to preach : probably, because the monastery 
wished to stand well with the town, and feared 
to allow Las Casas to enter the pulpit, knowing 
what terrible truths he would utter. We learn 
this fact in a very curious and authentic manner, 
from a witness in a legal process which, in after 
days, was instituted against Las Casas by the 
governor of Nicaragua. The witness says, that, 
having remained in San Domingo two years, he 
does not know that in the whole of that time 
brother Bartholomew preached ; and the witness 
further deposes, that the Auditors of San Do- 
mingo had charged Las Casas not to preach. 
It may be doubted, however, whether any secular 
command would have been sufficient to restrain 

In 1527, it is said, he commenced his history,* 

* I am content to take the evidence of Remesal, referring 
as it does to Las Casas himself: — " Lo que no la (duda) 
tiene, porque el misrao lo afirma, es, que el aiio de 1527, 


the most valuable groundwork for the history of 
America that exists. 

The exact time and the particular cause of 
the re-entrance of Las Casas into the world are 
both very doubtful. A rebellion of the Indians 
in Hispaniola, under the cacique Enrique, is 
supposed to have engaged his attention; and it 
is stated by Oviedo that he was sent to negotiate 
Occupa- with the revolted cacique. He is also said, upon 

tions of , 

Las Casas some grounds, as it appears to me, to have gone 

from 1529 

to 1536. to the Court of Spain in the year 1530. More- 
over, it is alleged that, shortly before the second 
expedition of Pizarro to Peru, Las Casas, fore- 
seeing the evils of that expedition, procured a 
royal decree, ordering that Pizarro and Almagro 
should abstain from making slaves of the Indians ; 
and it is further stated that Las Casas himself 
travelled to Peru, and delivered this order into 
the hands of these captains.* 

comencd a escrivir la historia general de las Indias, coligida 
de los escritos mas ciertos y verdaderos de aquel tiempo, 
particularmente de los originates del Almirante don Christo- 
val Colon."— Remesae, Hist, de Chiapa y Guatemala, lib. 
iii. cap. 1. 

* Quintana rejects all this part of the narrative, and, as 
Las Casas in his account of Peru never mentions himself as 


There are few lives in which the main events, 
and the circumstances on which they depended, 
are clearer than in that of Las Casas. But, at 
this period of his life, from his entrance into the 
Dominican monastery in Hispaniola until his oc- 
cupation of the Dominican monastery of Santiago 
in Guatemala, founded by Betanzos, there is great 
confusion and incertitude. If we abide by the 
account of Remesal, the writer from whom we 
learn most about Las Casas, the following is the 
order of events. 

Las Casas having, by his presence at Court, 
obtained the decree in favour of the natives of 
Peru, returned to Hispaniola. Immediately after 
his return, a provincial Chapter of the Dominican 
Order was held in that island, and upon that 
occasion a prior was appointed for the Dominican 

an eye-witness, I was at first inclined to reject it also. But, 
observing that, in his account of Nicaragua, where he cer- 
tainly had been, and where the law-suit before alluded to 
was brought against him, he never makes the least allusion 
to himself, I am not inclined to pronounce hastily upon 
these statements, more especially as Remesal speaks of 
a letter written by the Bishop of Guatemala, which seems 
to allude to the circumstance of Las Casas passing through 
the town of Santiago on his way to Peru. 



How Las 
Casas came 
to Mexico. 

Las Casas 
attends a 
Chapter in 

Goes to 



convent at Mexico, — the " Province," as it was 
called, of Mexico being dependent upon that of 
Hispaniola. That prior, Francisco de San Mi- 
guel, took Las Casas with him, intending to give 
him companions for passing on to Peru, not only 
to notify the royal decree, but to found convents 
in the newly-discovered country. Thus it was 
that Las Casas came to Mexico* The assumption, 
of prelatical authority on the part of the convent 
at Hispaniola was the cause of great trouble to/ 
the Dominican brethren in New Spain. We 
have already seen how Domingo de Betanzos was 
suddenly summoned to attend a chapter, or meet- 
ing, of his Order in Mexico; and the cause of 
his being sent for was no other than the arrival, 
or the rumour of the arrival, of the new prior. 
Remesal states that Las Casas helped to allay the 
differences which arose on this occasion amongst 
the brethren ; and then commenced his mission to 
Peru, accompanied by two Dominicans, who after- 
wards became celebrated men, — Bernardino de 
Minaya and Pedro de Angulo. 

It was at the beginning of the year 1531 that 
Las Casas set out from Mexico with his compa- 
nions, and traversing New Spain and Guatemala, 


came to Nicaragua, in which province they took 
ship at the port of Kealejo. There the good 
fathers were fortunate enough to find a vessel # 
which was going with men and provisions to 
Pizarro. They availed themselves of this means 
of transport, and notified the decree to the Spanish 
captains in Peru; but finding that the state of 

* That Las Casas commenced a voyage to Peru is clear 
from the following passage in his Historia Apologetica. He 
is speaking of tears being occasionally a mode of expressing 
joy. — " Yo vide un pldtico soldado muy solemne taur y que 
segun presumimos iba con otros muchos a robar los Indios a 
los Reynos del Peru ; handando que handabamos perdidos por 
la mar acorddmos de hechar suertes sobre que camino tomari- 
amos, 6 ' para ir al Peru, donde el y los demas iban, por que 
bullia el oro alii, enderezados, sino que nos era el tiempo con- 
trario, d' d la Provincia de Nicaragua, donde no habia oro, 
pero podiamos mas presto y matar la ambre alii a llegar : y 
por que solid la suerte que prosiguiesemos el camino del Peru, 
recibib tanta y tan veemente alegria que comenzo d llorar y 
derramar tantas Idgrimas como una muy devota vieja 6 veata, 
y dijo : por cierto no me parece sino que tengo tanto consuelo 
como si agora acabara de comulgar ; y otra cosa no hacia en 
todo el dia sino jugar d los naipes y tan desenfrenadamente 
como los otros. Los que alii veniamos que deseabamos salir 
de alii donde quiera que la mar nos hechara, vista la causa de 
sus Idgrimas reiamonos de su gran consuelo y devocion"'' — 
Las Casas, Historia Apologetica, MS., cap. 180. 


the country did not then admit of the founding 

of monasteries, they returned to Panama, and from 

Returns to thence went to Realeio, which port they reached 

Realejo, " 

March, in February or March of the year 1532. 

A bishop, Diego Alvarez Osorio, had just been 
nominated by the Emperor for Nicaragua, who 
was also endowed with the office of Protector 
of the Indians. The bishop, naturally enough, 
saw in this advent of the good fathers from Peru 
an excellent opportunity for founding a Dominican 
convent in Leon, the chief Spanish town of Nica- 
ragua, and he begged them to stay with him. 
They consented, and began to learn the language 
of the country, with the exception of Pedro de 
Angulo, who already knew Mexican well, and 
was therefore able at once to catechize the In- 
dians, and to teach them the Christian Faith.* 

* The foregoing details depend solely, or mainly, upon 
the authority of Remesal. They are liable to objections 
of considerable weight, which have, for the most part, been 
well stated by Quintana, the excellent modern biographer 
of Las Casas. On one point I am bound to confirm Quin- 
tana, namely, that in the account which Las Casas him- 
self gives of the insurrection of Enrique (see chapters 
124, 5, and 6, lib. iii. of his History), he does not assign to 
himself any such part as that given to him by Remesal. 


We are now, happily, on the firm ground of 
history, when we bring Las Casas into Nicaragua; 
though we must not suppose that he remained 
stationary there for any long period. In 1534, 
he undertook a second voyage to Peru, but was 
driven back by a storm, and did not renew the 
enterprise. Herrera makes him go to Spain, 
and though he gives a wrong date (1536) for 
this, yet the main statement may be true. Re- 
mesal makes Las Casas go in 1533 to the. island 
of Hispaniola ; and if this should be a true ac- 
count (as it seems, from certain circumstances 
that are mentioned, a probable one),* it was 
then also that Las Casas may have interfered 

He, however, promises to give further information in the 
next book, which he did not live to write. But still, what 
he has told us is by no means in accordance with Remesal. 

With regard to the rest of the story, I do not feel at all 
disposed to throw over the authority of Remesal. He had 
access to the archives of Guatemala early in the seven- 
teenth century, and he is one of those excellent writers, 
so dear to the students of history, who is not prone to de- 
clamation, or rhetoric, or picturesque writing, but indulges 
us largely by the introduction everywhere of most important 
historical documents, copied boldly into the text. 

* See Oviedo, " Hist. Gen. y Nat. de Indias," lib. v 
cap. 2. 



in Nica- 
ragua de- 
nounced by 
Las Casas. 

more potently in the affairs of the revolted 
cacique, Enrique, than is generally admitted by 
secular writers. There is no doubt, however, that, 
whilst at Nicaragua, Las Casas organized a for- 
midable opposition to the governor, Rodrigo de 
Contreras, whom he prevented from undertaking 
one of those expeditions into the interior which 
were always most injurious to the native Indians. 
Las Casas had great reason for opposing any 
such expedition in this country, as we learn from 
him that the most outrageous atrocities against 
the Indians had already taken place in this pro- 
vince. He mentions that it had been known 
to happen that, when a body of four thousand 
Indians accompanied an expedition to carry bur- 
dens, only six of them returned alive. He like- 
wise describes how when an Indian was sick with 
weariness and hunger, and unable to proceed, as 
a quick way of getting the chain free from the 
Indian, his head was cut off, and so he was dis- 
engaged from the gang in which he travelled. 
" Imagine," he says, " what the others must have 

* " Y acaecid vez de muchas que esto hizo, que de 


The Bishop of Nicaragua, who endeavoured to 
make peace between Las Casas and the governor, 
died ; and their feud, consequently, raged more 
violently than before. 

In passing through Guatemala on his way by 
land to Realejo, in his first attempt to reach 
Peru, Las Casas must have observed the deserted 
Dominican monastery in Guatemala; and, in all 
probability, he rested in one of its cells. He must 
also have made acquaintance with the curate of 
the town, Francisco de Marroquin. Marroquin 
had since become a bishop, and it seems certain 
that he now invited brother Bartholomew to come 
from Nicaragua to Guatemala. Las Casas pro- 
bably finding that he could not resist the governor 
of Nicaragua, abandoned the convent there, and, 

quatro mil Indios, no bolvieron seys vivos a sus casas, que 
todos los dexavan muertos por los caminos. E quando 
algunos cansavan, y se despeavan de las grandes cargas, y 
enfermavan de hambre, e trabajo, y tiaqueza ; por no desen- 
sartarlos de las cadenas les cortavan por la collera la cabega, 
e caya la cabeca a un cabo, y el cuerpo a otro. Vease que 
sentirian los otros." — Las Casas, Brevissima Relacion de la 
Destruycion de las Indias, p. 15. I do not know what 
governor or captain it was who authorized these cruelties. 
It was not Contreras, whose appointment was recent. 



Las Casas 
comes to 
and occu- 
pies the 

resolves to 
join Pizarro 
in Peru. 

The king's 
officers pro- 
test against 
the enter- 

accompanied by his brethren, proceeded to Guate- 
mala and took up his abode in the convent which 
Domingo de Betanzos had built, and which had 
remained vacant for six years. 

It will be necessary now, to give a short re- 
view of the principal events which had occurred 
in Guatemala between the departure of Domingo 
de Betanzos and the arrival of Las Casas and his 
brethren to occupy the deserted monastery. 

Alvarado, one of the most _restiesj_evenj)f those 
restless men — the conquerors of the New World 
— -had been devoting his energies to fitting out a 
fleet for the purpose of further discoveries. This 
fleet was built at a port called Iztapa, situated 
about seventeen leagues from the present city of 
Guatemala. When Alvarado was at the Court 
of Spain he had held out hopes of making further 
discoveries. But the great news of Pizarro's 
golden success reaching the greedy ears of the 
rapacious governor of Guatemala, he resolved to 
proceed southwards, and to join Pizarro in his 
enterprise. He was the more readily induced to 
do this, as he knew that Pizarro was but poorly 
equipped. It was in vain that the king's officers 
at Guatemala protested stoutly against Alvarado's 


expedition to Peru. They said that he would 
leave his own colony bare, and that it would, 
therefore, be in great peril, because a large part 
of it was in a state of war ; and that even the 
subdued Indians, seeing themselves freed from 
the yoke of armed men, would rise in revolt. 
Moreover, they added, with a shrewd insight 
into the future, that the lieutenant-governor 
whom Alvarado was leaving would be conti- 
nually obliged to be sending men and horses 
to assist his master; and, consequently, that the 
armed force of the country would, day by day, 
be growing weaker. To these sound arguments 
Alvarado replied that the government of Guate- 
mala was a small matter for him, and that he 
wished to go and seek another greater one. 
With regard to the question of danger, he said 
that he intended to take with him the principal 
Indians, and so leave the province secure for the 

The king's officers persevered in their remon- 
strances, and wrote both to the king, and to the 
audiencia of Mexico. The aadiencia agreed with 
the king's officers of Guatemala, and wrote to 
Alvarado, forbidding the enterprise. He was 



Returns to 

Las Casas 
and his 
study the 

not, however, to be daunted by their endeavours 
to restrain him, and he persevered in taking his 
departure for Peru. 

The result of this expedition was disastrous, 
although Alvarado himself did not suffer much, 
as he received an ample sum for the forces which 
he made over to Pizarro. Alvarado returned to 
Guatemala at the end of the year 1535, not long 
before Las Casas with his Dominican monks 
established themselves in the monastery at San- 
tiago de Guatemala. 

The Dominican brethren who accompanied Las 
Casas, and all of whom afterwards became cele- 
brated men, were Luis Cancer, Pedro de Angulo, 
and Rodrigo de Ladrada. These grave and reve- 
rend monks might any time in the year 1537 
have been found sitting in a little class round the 
Bishop of Guatemala, an elegant scholar, but 
w r hose scholarship was now solely employed to 
express Christian doctrines in the Utlatecan lan- 
guage, commonly called Quiche. As the chroni- 
cler says, " It was a delight to see the bishop, as 
a master of declensions and conjugations in the 
Indian tongue, teaching the good fathers of St. 
Dominic." This prelate afterwards published a 


work in Utlatecan, in the prologue of which he 
justly says, " It may, perchance, appear to some 
people a contemptible thing that prelates should 
be thus engaged in trifling things solely fitted for 
the teaching of children ; but, if the matter be 
well looked into, it is a baser thing not to abase 
one's self to these apparent trifles, for such teach- 
ing is the ' marrow ' of our Holy Faith." The 
bishop was quite right. It will soon be seen 
what an important end this study of the language 
led to; and, I doubt not — indeed, it might al- 
most be proved — that there are territories, neigh- 
bouring to Guatemala, which would have been 
desert and barren as the sands of the sea but for 
the knowledge of the Utlatecan language acquired 
by these good fathers, — an acquisition, too, it 
must be recollected, not easy or welcome to men 
of their age and their habits. 

It happened that a little before the year 1535, 
Las Casas had composed a treatise, which, though 
it was never printed, made a great noise at the 
time. It was entitled De unico vocationis modo. 
It was written in Latin, but was translated into 
Spanish, and so became current, not only amongst 
the monks and learned men, but also amongst the 


The common soldiers and colonists. It consisted of 

treatise De , . 

unkovoca- two propositions. The first was, that men were 

tionis modo. ... 

to be brought to Christianity by persuasion ; and 
the second, which seems but a consequence of the 
first, that without special injury received on the 
part of the Christians, it was not lawful for them 
to carry on war against infidels, merely as infidels. 
The treatise, though requiring in parts to be 
passed quickly over, would, if we may judge by 
other works of the same author, be interesting 
even now, and having close reference to the daily 
affairs of life in the Indies, must at the time it 
was written have been read with eager and angry 
attention by the Spanish colonists possessing In- 
dian slaves, whom they had won by their bows 
and their spears. To gain these slaves, they 
had toiled and bled. During long and harassing 
marches they had been alternately frozen, parched, 
and starved; sufferings only to be compensated 
for, and poorly compensated, by the large droves 
of captives which they had brought in triumph 
back with them. We may imagine the indignant 
manner in which these fierce veterans read what 
parts they could or would read of this wise and 
gentle treatise, De unico vocationis modo, written 


by the great protector of the Indians, who had 
now indeed emerged to some purpose from his 
quiet cell in the Dominican monastery. 

But the conquerors were not only indignant at 
the doctrines propounded in this treatise of Las 
Casas : they laughed at his theories — that mocking The 
laugh of the so-called practical men, — a kind of Guatemala 
laugh well known to all those who have attempted casas. 
to do any new and good thing. (i Try it," they 
said ; <( try with words only and sacred exhorta- 
tions to bring the Indians to the true faith ;" and 
Las Casas, who never said the thing he did not 
mean to abide by, took them at their word, and 
said he would try it. 

Now there was a neighbouring province called 
Tuzulutlan, which, amongst the Spanish inha- 
bitants of Guatemala, had the ill name of the 

Tierra de Guerra, " The Land of War." This The Tier™ 
. " , , . , . de Guerra. 

district was a terror to them ; and the people in 
it were a a phantom of terror " to the Spaniards. 
Thrice they had attempted to penetrate this land ; 
thrice they had returned defeated, with their 
hands up to their heads (las manes en la cabeqa). 
Such is the statement of Remesal. The land, 
therefore, was much more difficult to penetrate 


not an 

Las Casas 
and the 
ad interim, 
of Guate- 
May, 1557. 

than if no Spaniard had ever been there, being 
an irritated country, not merely an untried one. 
With all our knowledge hitherto acquired of Las 
Casas, we cannot but feel timid and apprehensive 
as to the result of this bold undertaking of his. 
We are not left in doubt as to the magnitude of 
the enterprise. The story is no monkish narra- 
tive to magnify the merits of the writer's Order. 
There was a formal compact entered into by the 
temporary governor of Guatemala with Las Casas, 
as vicar of the convent of San Domingo, in which 
it is admitted that the Indians in question were 
fierce men in revolt, whom no Spaniard dared to 
go near. Their country, too, was a most difficult 
one to conquer, where the ways were obstructed 
by mountains, intersected by rivers, and lost 
amidst dense forests. 

The substance of the agreement is, that if Las 
Casas, or any of his monks, can bring these Indians 
into conditions of peace, so that they should re- 
cognize the Spanish monarch for their lord para- 
mount, and pay him any moderate tribute, he, the 
governor, would place all those provinces under 
his majesty in chief (en cabeqa de su Magestad), 
and would not give them to any private Spaniard 



in encomienda. Moreover, no Spaniard, under 
heavy penalties, except the governor himself in 
person, should be allowed for five years to enter 
into that territory. This agreement bears date 
the 2nd of May, 1537, and was signed by Alonzo 
Maldonado, the temporary governor of Guatemala. 

Las Casas would hardly have been able to per- 
suade the ruthless soldier, Pedro de Alvarado, to 
sign any such contract as the foregoing. It was, 
therefore, a singular felicity for the enterprise in 
hand, that Alvarado was at that time absent from 
the province, and powerless in it. 

After the manner of pious men of those times, 
Las Casas and his monks did not fail to commence 
their undertaking by having recourse to the most 
fervent prayers, severe fasts, and other mortifica- 
tions. These lasted several days. They then 
turned to the secular part of their enterprise, 
using all the skill that the most accomplished 
statesmen, or men of the world, could have brought 
to bear upon it. The first thing they did, was to 
translate into verse, in the Quiche language, the 
great doctrines of the Church. In these verses 
they described the creation of the world, the fall 
of man, his banishment from Paradise, and the 

The Do- 
prepare for 
their enter- 
prise in 
" the Land 
of War." 

in Quich6 



The Do- 
attach some 

And teach 
them the 

mediation prepared for him; then the life of 
Christ, His passion, His death, His resurrection, 
His ascension ; then His future return to judge 
all men, the punishment of the wicked and the 
reward of the good. They divided the work, 
which was very extensive, into coplas, after the 
Castillian fashion.* We might well wish, for 
many reasons, that this laudable work remained 
to us, but I am not aware of there being any 
traces of its existence. 

The good fathers then began to study how 
they should introduce their poem to the notice of 
the Indians of Tuzulutlan; and, availing them- 
selves of a happy thought for this purpose, they 
called to their aid four Indian merchants, who 
were in the habit of going with merchandise, 
several times a year, into this province called 
" the Land of War." The monks, with great 
care, taught these four men to repeat the couplets 
which they had composed. The pupils entered 
entirely into the views of their instructors. In- 
deed, they took such pains in learning their lessons, 

* See Bouterwek's History of Spanish Literature, vol. i. 
p. 108 ; and Ticknor, History of Spanish Literature, vol. i. 
pp. 371-2. 


and (with the fine sense for musical intonation 
which the Indians generally possessed) repeated 
these verses so well, that there was nothing left 
to desire. The composition and the teaching 
occupied three months, and was not completed 
until the middle of August, 1537. Las Casas 
communicated his intended undertaking to Do- 
mingo de Betanzos, now the head of the Domini- 
can Order in New Spain, who was delighted to 
give his sanction and his blessing to the good 
work. The monks and the merchants, however, 
were not satisfied until they had brought their 
labours to much greater perfection, until, indee^, 
they had set these verses to music, so that they The poetry 

. , , • i i i T t • is set to 

might be accompanied by the Indian instruments ; music. 
taking care, however, to give the voice parts a 
higher place in the scale than that of the deep- 
toned instruments of the natives.* No doubt, 

* " Es de saber que no solo se contentaron con esto, 
sino que se las pusieron en tono y armoma miisica al son 
de los instrumentos que los Indios usan, accompanandolos 
con un tono vivo y atiplado para deleytar mas el oydo, por 
ser muy baxos y roncos los instrumentos musicos de que 
usan los Indios." — Eemesal, Hist, de Chiapa y Guatemala, 
lib. iii. cap. 15. 


this music was a great improvement upon any- 
thing the Indians had ever heard in the way of 
sweet sounds. 

The enterprise was now ready to be carried 
into action, — to be transplanted from the schools 
into the world. It was resolved that the mer- 
chants should commence their journey into " the 
Land of War," carrying with them not only their 
own merchandise, but being furnished by Las 
Casas with the usual small wares to please abori- 
gines, such as scissors, knives, looking-glasses, 
and bells. The pupils and the teachers parted, 
the merchants making their accustomed journey 
into the territories of Quiche and Zacapula, their 
destination being a certain pueblo of a great cacique 
of those parts, a wise and warlike chief, who had 
many powerful alliances.* 

* This must, I think, have been the Chief of Atitlan, for 
though, in Remesal's narrative he is never named directly, 
yet as he was baptized as Juan, and as the only cacique 
who is addressed as Don Juan, in a formal letter from the 
Emperor, thanking the caciques of those parts for the aid 
they had given to the Dominicans, is Don Juan de Atitlan, 
it is highly probable that Atitlan was the province visited 
by the merchants. 


Las Casas succeeds in converting by peaceable means " The 
Land of War'''' — He is sent to Spain, and detained there by 
the Council of the Indies. 

lEHIND all ostensible efforts of much 
novelty and magnitude, what silent 
longings and unutterable expectations 
lie unnoticed or concealed ! In the crowded 
theatre, or the cold, impatient senate, the voice 
that is raised for the first time — perhaps for ever 
afterwards to command an absolute attention — 
trembles with all the sensibility of genius, while 
great thoughts and vast aspirations, hurrying to- 
gether in the agitated mind, obstruct and confuse 
the utterance. We pity, with an intense sym- 
pathy, the struggles of one who is about to be 
famous. Meanwhile, perhaps, in some dark corner 
or obscure passage, is the agonized and heart-sick 




anxieties of 
Las Casas 
and his 

mother, who can hardly think, or hope, or pray, 
convinced, as far as she is conscious of anything, 
that her child ought to succeed, and must suc- 
ceed, but suffering all the timid anxiety that ma- 
ture years will ever bring, and with the keenest 
appreciation of every difficulty and drawback that 
can prevent success. 

It is a bold figure to illustrate the feelings of 
a monk by those of a mother ; but it may be 
doubted whether many mothers have suffered a 
keener agony of apprehensive expectation than 
Las Casas and his brethren endured at this and 
other similar points of their career. They had 
the fullest faith in God and the utmost reliance 
upon Him ; but they knew that He acts through 
secondary means, and how easily, they doubtless 
thought, might some failure in their own pre- 
paration — some unworthiness in themselves — 
some unfortunate conjunction of political affairs 
in the Indies — some dreadful wile of the Evil 
One — frustrate all their long enduring hopes. 
In an age when private and individual success 
is made too much of, and success for others too 
little, it may be difficult for many persons to 
imagine the intense interest with which these 


childless men looked forward to the realization 
of their great religious enterprise — the bringing 
of the Indians by peaceful means into the fold of 

The merchants were received, as was the cus- Reception 

of the mer- 

tom in a country without inns, into the palace chants in 


of the cacique, where they met with a better 
reception than usual, being enabled to make him 
presents of these new things from Castille. They 
then set up their tent, and began to sell their 
goods as they were wont to do, their customers 
thronging about them to see the Spanish novelties. 
When the sale was over for that day, the chief 
men amongst the Indians remained with the 
cacique, to do him honour. In the evening, the 
merchants asked for a (e teplanastle" an instru- 
ment of music which we may suppose to have 
been the same as the Mexican teponaztli* or 

* " The teponaztli, which is used to this day among the 
Indians, is cylindrical and hollow, but all of wood, having 
no skin about it, nor any opening but two slits lengthways 
in the middle, parallel to, and at a little distance from each 
other. It is sounded by beating the space between those 
two slits with two little sticks, similar to those which are 

Themer- drum. They then produced some timbrels and 

chants com- J x 

chan? thdr k ells ' which they had brought with them, and 
began to sing the verses which they had learned 
by heart, accompanying themselves on the musi- 
cal instruments. The effect produced was very 
great. The sudden change of character, not 
often made, from a merchant to a priest, at once 
arrested the attention of the assemblage. Then, 
if the music was beyond anything that these 
Indians had heard, the words were still more 
extraordinary ; for the good fathers had not 
hesitated to put into their verses the question- 

made use of for modern drums, only that their points are 
covered with ule or elastic gum, to soften the sound. The 
size of this instrument is various : some are so small as to 
be hung about the neck ; some of a middling size ; and 
others so large as to be upwards of five feet long. The 
sound which they yield is melancholy, and that of the largest 
so loud, that it may be heard at the distance of two or three 
miles. To the accompaniment of these instruments .... 
the Mexicans sung their hymns and sacred music. Their 
singing was harsh and offensive to European ears ; but they 
took so much pleasure in it themselves, that on festivals 
they continued singing the whole day. This was un- 
questionably the art in which the Mexicans were least 
successful." — Ciavigero, Hist, of Mexico, vol. i. pp. 398-9. 
English translation. 



able assertion that idols were demons, and the 
certain fact that human sacrifices were abomin- 
able. The main body of the audience was de- 
lighted, and pronounced these merchants to be 
ambassadors from new gods. 

The cacique, with the caution of a man in 
authority, suspended his judgment until he had 
heard more of the matter. The next day, and 
for seven succeeding days, this sermon in song 
was repeated. In public and in private, the Curiosi 

of the 

person who insisted most on this repetition was cacique 
the cacique; and he expressed a wish to fathom 
the matter, and to know the origin and meaning 
of these things. The prudent merchants replied, 
that they only sang what they had heard ; that it 
was not their business to explain these verses, for 
that office belonged to certain padres, who in- 
structed the people. " And who are padres 9 " 
asked the chief. In answer to this question, 
the merchants painted pictures of the Dominican 
monks, in their robes of black and white, and with 
their tonsured heads. The merchants then de- 
scribed the lives of these padres: how they did 
not eat meat, and how they did not desire gold, 
or feathers, or cocoa ; that they were not married, 

tion given 
by the mer- 



and had no communication with women; that 
, night and day they sang the praises of God ; and 

that they knelt before very beautiful images. 
Such were the persons, the merchants said, who 
could and would explain these couplets : the} 
were such good people, and so ready to teach,, 
that if the cacique were to send for them, thev 
would most willingly come. 

The Indian chief resolved to see and hear these 
marvellous men in black and white, with their 
hair in the form of a garland, who were so dif- 
ferent from other men; and for this purpose, 
when the merchants returned, he sent in com- 
pany with them a brother of his, a young man 
twenty-two years of age, who was to invite the 
Dominicans to visit his brother's country, and 
to carry them presents. The cautious cacique 
The cacique instructed his brother to look well to the ways 

sends his 

brother of these padres, to observe whether they had gold 

back with . . . 

and silver like the other Christians, and whether 
there were women in their houses. These in- 
structions having been given, and his brother 
having taken his departure, the cacique made 
large offerings of incense and great sacrifices to 
his idols for the success of the embassage. 

the mer 



On the arrival of this company at Santiago, 
Las Casas and the Dominican monks received 
the young Indian chief with every demonstration 
of welcome : and it need hardly be said with what 
joy they heard from the merchants who accom- 
panied him of the success of their mission. 

While the Indian prince was occupied in 
visiting the town of Santiago, the monks debated 
amongst themselves what course they should pur- 
sue in reference to the invitation which they had 
received from the cacique. Guided throughout 
by great prudence, they resolved not to risk the 
safety of the whole of their body, but to send only 
one monk at first as an ambassador and explorer. 
Their choice fell upon Father Luis Cancer,, who Father 


probably was the most skilled of all the four in chosen 

for the 

the language that was likely to be best understood mission to 


in Tuzulutlan. Meanwhile the cacique's brother 
and his attendants made their observations on the 
mode of life of the monks, who gratified him and 
them by little presents. It was time now to 
return ; and the whole party, consisting of Luis 
Cancer, the cacique's brother, his Indians, and 
the four merchants of Guatemala, set off from 
Santiago on their way to the cacique's country. 


Luis Cancer carried with him a present for the 
cacique in fabrics of Castille, and also some crosses 
and images. The reason given for carrying these 
latter is, " That the cacique might read in them 
that which he might forget in the sermons that 
would be preached to him."* 
Father The journey of Father Luis was a continued 

Luis well 

received. triumph. Everywhere the difference was noticed 
between his dress, customs, and manners, and 
those of the Spaniards who had already been 
seen in Tuzulutlan. When he came into the 
cacique's territory he was received under triumphal 
arches, and the ways were made clean before 
him as if he had been a monarch, traversing his 
kingdom. At the entrance of the cacique's own 
town, the chief himself came out to meet Father 
Luis, and bending before him, cast down his eyes, 
showing him the same mark of reverence that he 
would have shown to the priests of that country. 
More substantial and abiding honours soon fol- 
lowed. At the cacique's orders a church was 

* " Para que leyesse en ellas lo que de los sermones 
que le avia de hazer se le olvidasse." — Remesal, Hist, de 
Chiapa y Guatemala, lib. iii. cap. 15. 


built, and in it the father said mass in the pre- a church 
sence of the chief, who was especially delighted Tuzuiutian. 
with the cleanliness of the sacerdotal garments, 
for the priests of his own country, like those of 
Mexico, affected filth and darkness, the fitting 
accompaniments for a religion of terror. 

Meanwhile, Father Luis continued to explain 
the Christian creed, having always a most attentive 
and favourable hearer in the cacique. The good 
monk had taken the precaution to bring with him 
the written agreement signed by the governor, 
and he explained to the chief the favourable con- 
ditions that it contained for the welfare of the 
Indians. The merchants were witnesses who 
might be appealed to for the meaning of this 
document ; and that they were faithful to the 
monks — indeed, a sort of lay-brotherhood — may 
be inferred from the fact of their continuing to 
chaunt every evening the verses which had won 
for them at first the title of ambassadors from new 
gods. The cacique's brother gave a favourable 
report of what he had seen at Santiago, and the 
result of all these influences on the mind of the 
Indian chieftain was such, that he determined to The cacique 
embrace the Christian faith. No sooner had he proselyte. 

Oct., 1537. 


become a proselyte, than, with all the zeal and 
energy belonging to that character, he began to 
preach the new doctrine to his own vassals. He 
was the first to pull down and to burn his idols ; 
and many of his chiefs, in imitation of their mas- 
ter, likewise became iconoclasts. 

In a word, the mission of Father Luis was su- 
premely successful, and after he had visited other 
parts of the country subject to the converted 
Father Luis cacique, he returned, according to the plan that 
Santiago, had been determined upon by the brethren, to 
the town of Santiago, where Las Casas and the 
other monks received with ineffable delight the 
good tidings which their brother had to com- 
municate to them. Even if the result of this 
mission be looked at as a mere matter of worldly 
success, all persons of any power of sympathy 
will be glad to find that some enterprise projected 
by Las Casas met with its due reward, and such 
a reward, indeed, as might well serve to efface the 
remembrance of the terrible disaster at Cumana, 
which had driven him from secular into monastic 
life. How often, perhaps, in the solitude of his 
cell at St. Domingo, had he regretted taking that 
irremediable step, especially when he found from 



letters, that his friends at Court had not forgotten 
him ; and how often had he painted to himself, 
according to the fancies we all indulge in, the 
good that he might have done had he taken " the 
other course." 

It was at the end of October, 1537, at the close 
of the rainy season, when those provinces could 
best be traversed, that father Luis returned to 
Santiago. Las Casas himself now resolved to Las Casas 

, takes his 

go into " the Land of War," taking as a com- place, Dec, 
panion father Pedro de Angulo, who also was 
well acquainted with the language of that district. 
As might be expected, the cacique (whom we 
shall hereafter call by his baptismal name, Don 
Juan) received Las Casas with all due honours. 
In the interval of time that had elapsed between 
the departure of father Luis and the arrival of 
father Bartholomew, the new convert's sincerity 
and energy had been sorely tried. Indeed, it was 
hardly to be expected that this sudden conversion 
could go on with all the success that had attended 
it in the beginning. The first great difficulty 
that he encountered arose from the following cir- 


There happened to be a treaty of marriage for 
a daughter of the cacique of Coban with the 
brother of the converted cacique — that same bro- 
ther who had visited the Dominicans at Santiago. 
It was a custom on such occasions for those who 
had charge of the bride to sacrifice certain birds 
and animals, on arriving at the confines of the 
bridegroom's territory. Don Juan's conscience 
would not allow even these innocent sacrifices to 
be made. The ambassadors from Coban were in 
the highest degree vexed and affronted; but at 
last, after much consideration, they resolved not 
to break off an alliance with so powerful a prince 
upon a mere matter of form, and the princess of 
Coban was conducted into the bridegroom's coun- 
The try. This difficulty, therefore, was for the pre- 

cacique . 

finds it diffi- sent surmounted ; but his own people now gave 

cult to con- 
vert his Don Juan far more trouble than the ambassadors 


from Coban. An ignorant mob is sometimes very 
conservative. Pagans, as the scholar knows from 
the derivation of the name, were but the inha- 
bitants of country villages, whose ignorance and 
unimpressibility kept off the influence of any new 
doctrine, however good. In Don Juan's terri- 
tories similar causes would produce similar effects, 


and there would be a body of dull and fierce 
fanatics who would pride themselves on being the 
last to quit the old heathen ways, and the slowest 
to appreciate the merits of Christianity. More- Resistance 

to the new 

over, We cannot doubt that in this case the unclean doctrines, 
priests, seeing their vocation falling from them, 
stirred up the common people, who, thus acted 
upon, contrived furtively to burn the church. 
This was not done without suspicion of the am- 
bassadors from Coban being concerned in the 
matter. The cacique, however, undaunted by all 
this opposition, rebuilt the church. Las Casas 
and his brother monk, Pedro de Angulo, said 
mass in it, and preached in the open plain to the 
people, who came in great numbers, some from 
curiosity and from favour to the new religion, and 
others with a gluttonous longing to devour the 
monks, who, they thought, would taste well if 
flavoured with sauce of Chili.* Las Casas and 
his companion, anxious to extend their knowledge 
of these regions, traversed, with a guard of sixty 

* " Otros con golosina de comerselos, pareciendoles que 
tendrian buen gusto con salsa de Chile." — Remesal, lib. iii. 
cap. 16. 


of his new friends the neighbouring territories, but 
yielded to the wishes of Don Juan in not going as 
far as Coban. The fathers were well received on 
their journey, and they returned to the pueblo of 
Don Juan at the beginning of the year 1538. 
1538. At this juncture Las Casas and all lovers of 

the Indians received a very seasonable aid from 
the Court of Rome. That accomplished and re- 
fined pope, Paul the Third (Alexander Farnese), 
was moved to a consideration of Indian affairs by 
The Do- a letter, which the learned bishop of Tlascala had 

minicans in 

New Spain addressed to him, and also by a mission sent at 

send to 

Paul in. the instance of Betanzos and the chief Dominicans 
in New Spain. This mission was conducted by 
father Bernardino de Minaya, who in former days 
had travelled with Las Casas through Guatemala 
and Nicaragua. The pope answered the requisi- 
tions of the bishop and the monks in the most 
favourable and forcible manner; and must have 
shown a rapidity in giving this answer which his 
Holiness — who was celebrated for delay in busi- 
ness, usually waiting for some happy conjuncture 
of affairs, — was seldom known to manifest. He 

Brief of issued a brief, founded on the great text Euntes 

Pope Paul # fo 

in. in docete omnes gentes, in which he declared in the 


most absolute manner the fitness of the Indians favour of 

the Indians. 

for receiving Christianity, considering them, to June > 1537 * 
use the words of the brief, " as veritable men, 
not only capable of receiving the Christian faith, 
but as we have learnt, most ready to embrace 
that faith." He also pronounced in very strong 
language against their being reduced into slavery. 

Nor was Paul the Third content with issuing His letter 

to the Pri- 

this brief, but he addressed a letter to the Arch- mate of 

. . Spain. 

bishop of Toledo, the primate of Spain, in which June, 1537. 

his holiness said, " It has come to our knowledge 

that our dearest son in Christ, Charles, the ever 

august emperor of the Romans, king of Castille 

and Leon, in order to repress those who, boiling 

over with cupidity, bear an inhuman mind against 

the human race, has by public edict forbidden all 

his subjects from making slaves of the Western 

and Southern Indians, or depriving them of their 


* " Ad nostrum siquidem pervenit auditum, quod cha- 
rissimus in Christo filius noster Carolus Romanorum Impe- 
rator semper Augustus, qui etiam Castellae et Legionis Rex 
existit, ad reprimendos eos, qui cupiditate sestuantes contra 
humanum genus inhumanum gerunt animum, publico edicto 
omnibus sibi subditis prohibuit, ne quisquam Occidentals 


The pope then pronounced a sentence of ex- 
communication of the most absolute kind* against 
all those who should reduce the Indians to slavery, 
. or deprive them of their goods. 

The men who throw themselves most earnestly 
into public affairs, if they meet with terrible re- 
buffs, have, on the other hand, at rare intervals, 
signal joys and triumphs — triumphs unknown to 
those who commit their hopes to private ventures 
only. Thus it fared with Las Casas on the pre- 
sent occasion. His delight on the arrival in the 
Indies of these missives from the pope was very 
keen ; and he soon found a practical way of ex- 
Las Casas pressing it, by translating the brief into Spanish, 

translates . 

the pope's and sending it to many parts of the Indies, in 


order that the monks might notify its contents to 
the lay colonists. 

In his own particular mission, however, Las 

aut Meridionales Indos in servitutem redigere, aut bonis 
suis privare prgesumant." — Remesax, Hist, de Chiapa y 
Guatemala, lib. iii. cap. 17. 

* " Sub excommunicationis lata? sententise poena, si secus 
fecerint, eo ipso incurrenda." — Remesax, lib. iii. cap. 17. 



Casas found something else, beyond the papal 
declaration of freedom, that was wanting, and 
without which the welfare of the Indians of Tuz- 
ulutlan could not, in his opinion, be secured. 
According to a proposition which he maintained 
most stoutly, it appeared to him, that for any 
nation to receive a law, two conditions were 
necessary : first, that there should b e a puebl o* by Conditions 

" — t~ requisite 

which he means a collection of families; and for political 
secondly, that the nation should have perfect 
liberty ; for, not being free, he says, they cannot 
form part of a community. This last is a great 
doctrine. The arguments of Las Casas were 
founded upon biblical history — as, for instance, 
that God gave no law in the time of Abraham, 
because there was no community, but a single 
household only. On the other hand, when the 
Israelites were in Egypt, although they formed a 
great community, they received no law, because 
they were captives. God gave the law only when 
the two conditions were combined — namely, the 
existence of a community, and freedom for the 
people who dwelt in it. Now, looking around 
him in Tuzulutlan, Las Casas found the element 
of liberty sufficiently developed, but that of the 


existence of communities lamentably deficient. 
The Indians, under the government of his friend, 
the cacique Don Juan, were scattered over the 
country in very small villages, seldom consisting 
of so many as six houses, and these villages were 
generally more than " a musket-shot " apart. This 
state of things seemed to him intolerable, and cer- 
tainly, with a view to instruction, it was so. But 
instruction and preservation are different things; 
and it was afterwards found that collecting the 
Indians together in settlements did not always 
favour their preservation. 

One evil effect of these settlements was, that it 
Danger of exposed the Indians to the attack of contagious 


the Indians diseases, like the small-pox, which, being caught 

together in ' r ^_ o 

settle- from a strong people, the Spaniards, was a strong 

disease, and carried off the infirmly-constituted 
Indians by thousands. In reference to this sub- 
ject, a Mexican ecclesiastic, writing a century 
afterwards, quotes with great significance, a com- 
mon Spanish proverb, " If the stone strikes against 
the earthen jar, woe to the jar: and if the jar 
strikes against the stone, woe not the less to the 
jar."* We cannot wonder, however, that Las 

* " Que si la piedra da en el cantaro, mal para el can- 


Casas, whose first aim at this period was con- Las Casas 

desires to 

version, should have insisted so much upon col- found 

pueblos in 

lecting the people into pueblos, as it enabled them the con- 
to hear mass and to receive the sacraments. But country. 
the Tuzulutlans were not at all of his mind. 
They could not bear the idea of quitting the 
spots where they had been born — their forests, 
their mountains, and their clefts, — for the purpose 
of forming a pueblo, which could not unite in itself 
the peculiarities of each man's birth-place, and 
would be likely to be chosen with a view to dull 
convenience mainly. This measure, therefore, 
second only in difficulty to that of winning a 
people from a nomadic state to one of settled 
habitation, was hard to effect in Tuzulutlan. 
Though Las Casas was seconded in all his efforts 
by the cacique, the people were almost inclined to 
take up arms. At last, after great labours and 
sufferings, Las Casas and Pedro de Angulo con- 
trived to make a beginning of a settlement, at a Founding 
place called Rabinal, having wisely chosen a spot of Rabinal. 
which some few Indians, at least, were attached 
to, as Rabinal had been inhabited before. There 

taro : y si el cantaro da en la piedra, mal tambien para el 
cantaro." — Davlla Padilla, lib. i. cap. 33, p. 103. 



What the 
mass at first 
appeared to 
the Indians. 

Indians of 
come to see 
the new 

they built a church, and there they preached and 
taught the people, teaching not only spiritual 
things, but manual arts, and having to instruct 
their flock in the elementary processes of washing 
and dressing. These good fathers were not of 
that school which holds that this life, God's gift, 
is to be left uncomely because the next is to be 

It is admitted that the Indians, at first, re- 
garded the mass rather as a religious ceremony 
which was new to them than for what, as Reme- 
sal says, " that most divine Sacrifice in itself is." 
But it must have had its attractions; and the 
active, kindly teaching of brother Bartholomew 
and brother Pedro about things the Indians could 
understand must have given weight and influence 
to their words in all matters. The town began 
to grow, one Indian family attracting another, 
until, at last, a hundred families were collected 

This strange experiment of forming a pueblo 
was not likely to go unnoticed long, and accord- 
ingly the inhabitants of Rabinal found their 
neighbours of Coban stealing in to see this new 
mode of life. It seems that their impressions of 


it were favourable, for Luis Cancer, who had 
been sent for by Las Casas to aid in founding the 
town, took occasion now to penetrate as far as Father Luis 


Coban, and, finding himself well received, and to Coban. 

that the Indians there listened with pleasure to 

what he told them of the Christian faith, returned 

to Rabinal more contented, it is said, than if he 

had discovered very rich mines of silver and of 

gold. His joy was shared by Las Casas and 

Pedro de Angulo, and they all commenced with 

great vigour studying the language of Coban. 

Each success was with these brave monks a step 

gained for continued exertion. 

The little town of Rabinal, which consisted of 
five hundred inhabitants, having now been put 
into some kind of order, Las Casas and Pedro de 
Angulo resolved to return to Guatemala, for the 
purpose of concerting measures with the bishop 
for the further spread of the faith in those parts. 
Las Casas bethought him of taking back with 
them their principal convert, the cacique Don 
Juan. It was not found difficult to induce the Las Casas 

induces the 

cacique to accompany the fathers, but they were cacique to 


obliged to persuade him to reduce his retinue, him. 
which he would have made very large, as they 


the cacique 
to reduce 
his retinue. 

Return of 
Las Casas, 
with his 
convert, to 

feared that any injury or affront which any 
Indian in the chief's train might meet with, 
would bring down a torrent of trouble and re- 
proaches upon themselves, and they thought that, 
the smaller the number of Indians, the less 
chance there would be of anything untoward 
happening between them and the Spaniards of 
Santiago. Finally, the fathers and the cacique 
Don Juan, with a moderate number of attend- 
ants, set off on their journey, leaving Luis 
Cancer in charge of the Christianized town of 

Las Casas had given due notice to his friends 
at Santiago of his intended return, and also of 
what notable company was coming with him. 
Rodrigo de Ladrada, the only monk left in the 
convent of the Dominicans at Santiago, did the 
best he could to prepare their poor house for the 
reception of the chief and his retinue, by adding 
huts to it, and collecting maize. 

It was with more delight, and certainly with 
more reason for being delighted, than many a 
Roman conqueror has had on the day of his 
ascent to the capitol, that Las Casas and his 
brother monk brought the cacique Don Juan 


in triumph to their humble monastery. The 
moment they had arrived, the Bishop of Guate- 
i mala hurried forth to welcome the good fathers, 
and also to salute the Indian chief. As the 
bishop knew the language very well, he was 
able to conduct the reception with all fitting 
courtesy, and also to discourse with the new 
convert about religious matters, upon which the 
bishop found him well informed. 

The bishop, being much pleased at this inter- 
view, felt sure the governor would be no less so ; 
and he sent a message, begging his lordship 
(Alvarado had returned from Spain) to come and 
join them. The governor came forthwith. Now, 
Alvarado, though a fierce and cruel personage, 
was not without that power of rapid apprecia- 
tion which belongs to great commanders, and 
knew well when he saw a noble and true man 
before him. 

When, therefore, the bold Adelantado met the 
cacique, the Indian chieftain's air and manner, 
his repose, the gravity and modesty of his coun- The bishop 
tenance, his severe look and weighty speech, won governor 

do honour 

so instantaneously upon the Spaniard, that, having to the 
nothing else at hand, he took off his own plumed 


hat, and put it on the head of the cacique. The 
soldiers who stood around wondered and mur- 
mured at the strange fact, that a lieutenant- 
governor of the emperor should take his own 
hat off, and put it, as they said, on a dog of an 
Indian. But Alvarado was not a man to care for 
their murmurs, and so, on some ensuing day, far 
from showing less favour to the grave cacique, 
he placed the Indian between himself and the 
bishop, and they traversed the town together, 
the governor having previously ordered the mer- 
chants to display their goods to the greatest ad- 
vantage, and the bishop having told them that, 
if the cacique should seem to take a fancy to 
anything, they should offer it to him, and he, the 
bishop, would be answerable for the payment. 
But those whom we call savages, and people of 
the highest breeding in civilized life, alike pride 
themselves upon the coolness and composure with 
which they regard any new thing that may be 
offered for their wonder or their admiration. The 
cacique walked through the tents of the Guate- 
Tbe malan merchants with such gravity and apparent 

gravity of indifference that it seemed as if the goods he saw 

demeanour. m . ^ 

were no novelty to him — " as if, indeed, he had 


been born in Milan." Finding that he did not 

seem to admire anything particularly, the governor 

and the bishop changed their tactics, and began to 

press articles of value upon him; but he would 

not receive any of them. At last he fixed his eyes 

upon an image of " Our Lady," and condescended 

to ask what that was. The bishop informed 

him ; when the Indian remarked that the bishop's 

words agreed with what the padres had told him. 

The bishop then ordered the image to be taken 

down, and begged the cacique to accept it. The 

cacique seemed pleased with this, and received 

the image on his knees. He then delivered it to 

one of his principal attendants, ordering him to 

carry it with much veneration. The chieftain's 

suite, not so dignified and self restrained as their 

master, were pleased at receiving little presents; 

and, after a short stay at Santiago, they all returned 

into their own country, accompanied by Las Casas Las Casas 

and Ladrada, who were anxious to continue the Rabinai. 

good work they had begun, and, if possible, to go 

together into the territory of Coban. This they 

succeeded in doing, and they found the people of 

that country very ready to receive them. They 

found, also, that it was well governed, and that the 



Las Casas 
into Coban. 

Returns to 
May, 1539. 

sacrifices there were less offensive than in any 
other part of the Indies. 

Las Casas and his companions were not left 
long to investigate this part of the country, as 
they were recalled by their brethren at Santiago, 
who told them "that certain good thoughts had 
occurred to the Bishop of Guatemala, who wished 
to communicate them to Brother Bartholomew and 
his companions." They accordingly returned to 
Santiago in the beginning of May, 1539. 

When they were all met together in junta, they 
found that the business upon which the bishop 
wished to confer with them was the paucity of 
ecclesiastics in that diocese ; to remedy which de- 
fect he stated his intention of sending to Spain. 
He mentioned also that for this purpose he* had 
collected some money, and was ready to apply some 
more which he had in the hands of an agent at 
Seville. His present difficulty was in the selec- 
tion of a person to whom he might intrust this 
business, and he begged the assembled churchmen 
to help him to decide that point. There was also 
a chapter of their order about to be held at 
Mexico, and the clergy of Guatemala must be 
represented there. It was soon agreed that Las 


Casas and Ladrada should go to Spain, and that 
Luis Cancer and Pedro de Angulo should attend 
the chapter at Mexico. They lost no time in Las Casas 

. rr , 1 . sent to 

setting out upon their journey. 1 he two monks, Spain. 
who were to attend the chapter, took the road by 
the sea-shore, which passed through Soconusco. 
Las Casas and Ladrada went by Rabinal and 
Coban, an arduous undertaking, but one which 
they thought necessary in order to re-assure their 
friendly Indians, who would otherwise be dis- 
mayed by their absence. And, in truth, the 
cacique, Don Juan, was greatly disheartened 
when Las Casas and Ladrada came into his coun- 
try, and told him that they were going to Spain. 
He feared that the surrounding tribes, many of 
whom were displeased with him for becoming a 
convert to Christianity, would now, in the absence 
of his protectors, the monks, no longer hesitate to 
make war upon him. They consoled him with 
the promise of a quick return, and he accom- 
panied them to the bounds of his own country, 
furnishing them with an escort who were to see 
them safe as far as Chiapa.* 

* That the cacique was most zealous in the cause of the 


Thus the Dominican monastery at Guatemala 
was again left desolate. Certainly this monkish 
fraternity was no pedantic institution, which could 
not conform itself to the wants and the necessities 
of the people amongst whom its lot was cast. A 
faithful layman took charge of the convent, pro- 
bably with such orders as had been given many 
years ago, on a similar occasion, by Betanzos, — 

monks, may be gathered from the following account of a 
transaction which took place in the year 1555, and which 
we conclude, by the date, relates to the cacique Don Juan, 
mentioned in the text. 

" Sabida, pues, la cruel barbaridad de los Idolatras en 
toda aquella Tierra, el Indio Don Juan Cazique, Gover- 
nador de la Vera-Paz, tomo tan por su quenta la venganca 
de la Muerte de los Religiosos, que con las compamas de 
sus Indios, acaudillandolos el en Persona, empezo a guerrear 
crudamente .... 

" . . . . Y dezia piiblicamente a todos, y en especial a los 
Padres del Convento de Santo Domingo de Coban : Que no 
descansaria su Corac,on, ni tendria sossiego alguna, hasta que 
acabasse de raiz con todos los Acalanes, y Lacandones, en 
satisfacion, y venganca de la Muerte, que avian dado al 
Padre Prior Fray Domingo de Vico, y al Padre Fray Andres 
Lopez, su Companero: Tan excessivo era el amor, que al 
Padre Prior tenia ; y tal el dolor, que labrd en su sentimiento 
la alevosa Muerte que a los dos dieron aquellos Barbaros ! " 
— Juan de Villagutierre Soto-Mator, Historia de la 
Conquista de la Provincia de el Itza, lib. i. cap. 10. 


to open the convent church to any one who 
wished to pray there; and this lay friend of the 
monastery employed his leisure, somewhat as the 
other laymen had done, in preparing unburnt 
bricks for the future building materials of the 

The four monks reached Mexico safely, and 
were very kindly received by Domingo de Betan- 
zos. A chapter of the Dominicans was held on 
the 24th day of August, 1539; and, though the 
demand for Christian instruction was very urgent 
in Mexico, the chapter, having been informed of 
the proceedings in Guatemala and "the Land of 
War," determined that four monks and two novices 
should be appointed to go to Guatemala; that 
Pedro de_Angulo should be named as Vig&r of the 
Dominican convent at Guatemala, and that Las 
Casas, with Ladrada and Luis Cancer, should be 
allowed to go to Spain. . Las Casas and his com- 
panions accordingly pursued their way to the 
mother country. 

We are left in no doubt of the activity of 
Brother Bartholomew after he had arrived at the 
Spanish Court; for there are a number of royal or- R yal 
ders and letters, about this period, all bearirg upon letters fa- 



vouring the 
of Las 


Oct. 1540. 

the conversion of the inhabitants of Tuzulutlan. 
There is an order sanctioning the promise which 
had been made on the Emperor's part, that no lay 
Spaniard should enter that province within five 
years, unless with the permission of the [Dominican 
monks. There are letters, addressed,, by com- 
mand of the emperor, to each of the principal 
caciques of "the Land of War" who had favoured 
the Dominicans, in which letters Charles thanks 
them for what they had done, and charges them 
to continue in the same course.* There are 
orders to the Governor of Guatemala to favour 
these caciques in their endeavours to help the 
Dominican monks, and instructions to the Governor 
of Mexico to allow Indians to be taken from that 

* The letter of the Emperor to one of the caciques com- 
mences thus: — " Eii Rey. Don Jorge, Principal del pueblo 
de Tegpanatitan, que es en la Provincia de Guatemala. 
Por relacion de fray Bartolome de las Casas e sido infor- 
mado, que aveys travajado en pacificar, y traer de paz, los 
naturales de las Provincias de Taculutlan, que estavan de 
guerra, y el favor y ayuda que para ello aveys dado al dicho 
fray Bartolome de las Casas, y fray Pedro de Angulo, y a 

los otros Religiosos que en ello han entendido 

Oct. 17, 1540." — Remesae, Hist, de Chiapa y Guatemala, 
lib. iii. cap. 21. 


province by the Dominican monks, if they should 
find such Indians useful in their entry into Tuzu- 
lutlan. Music, the means by which Las Casas 
and his friends had accomplished so much good, 
was not forgotten; and the emperor commands 
the head of the Franciscans in New Spain to allow 
some of the Indians who could play and sing 
church music in the monasteries of that order* to 
be taken by Las Casas into the province of Tuzu- 
lutlan. And, finally, there is a general order to 
the authorities in America to punish those who 
should transgress the provisions which had been 
made in favour of Las Casas and his Dominicans. 

We learn from one of these letters who were 
the chiefs that favoured the introduction of 
Christianity, and the names of their provinces, 
which is a valuable contribution to the history, 
and perhaps to the ethnology, of Central America. 
They were Don Juan, Governor (so he is called) 
of the town of Atitlan, Don Jorge, Principal of 
the town of Tecpanatitan, Don Miguel, Principal 
of the town of Zizicaztenango, and Don Gaspar, 
Principal of the town of Tequizistlan. 

The business of Las Casas at court was finished, 
and the monks, for whose sustenance the good 


Las Casas 
detained in 

at Seville of 
the royal 
order in 
favour of 
Jan. 21, 

Bishop of Guatemala had provided, were ready to 
leave Spain, when the President of the Council 
of the Indies detained Las Casas, in order that 
he might assist at certain councils which were 
about to be held, concerning the Government of 
the Indies. This is the second time within a short 
period, that we have seen the authorities in Spain 
anxious to avail themselves of the local knowledge 
and experience of eminent persons who had lived 
in the Indies. 

The monks chosen to aid in the conversion of 
Guatemala consisted of Franciscans and Domi- 
nicans. The Dominicans were detained in Spain, 
as Las Casas was their vicar-general. But the 
Franciscans were sent on, and with them went 
Luis Cancer, carrying all the letters and royal 
orders relating to the province of Tuzulutlan, still 
called "the Land of War," but which now de- 
served that name less than any part of the Indies. 
Before sailing, a very solemn proclamation was 
made on the steps of the Cathedral at Seville of 
that royal order which sternly forbad the entrance 
for the present of any lay Spaniards into the 
favoured province of Tuzulutlan. This was a 
precaution adopted by Las Casas, who well knew 


that the provincial governors, though they kissed 
the royal orders very dutifully, and were wont to 
put them, after the eastern fashion, upon their 
heads, with every demonstration of respect, were 
extremely dexterous in disobeying them, on the 
pretext that His Majesty had been misinformed, 
or had been informed in a left-hand manner 
(siniestramente). Las Casas, therefore, was anxious 
to give all possible publicity to this royal order in 
Spain, where its validity could not be denied. 


Las Casas writes on Indian affairs— He is made Bishop of 
Chiapa — His troubles with his flock — He resigns the 
bishopric — His controversy with Sepulveda. 

;E left Las Casas detained at the court 
of Spain by the Council of the Indies, 
who wished to profit by his knowledge 
of Indian affairs. It is easy to imagine with what 
force he could then speak in favour of his Indians, 
having, for once, a great practical success to 
appeal to in the conquest of Tuzulutlan : he who 
had never been even daunted when the course of 
affairs had apparently been most decisive against 

The Emperor Charles the Fifth was absent in 
Germany, contending against Luther and the 
German princes who favoured the great reformer, 


and Las Casas employed his time in writing 

the work, which of all his works has become 

most celebrated, namely, The Destruction of the He writes 

the De- 
Indies. This was afterwards translated into structionof 

the Indies. 

several languages, and has been read throughout 
Europe- It gives a short account of what had 
taken place in each colony, and is one of the 
boldest works that ever issued from the press. At 
that time it was not published, but submitted to 
the Emperor and his ministers. It is possible that 
in this its first form it was a still more daring 
production than it appears to be now ; for in the 
printed copies there is not a single name given of 
the persons inculpated. These are generally 
spoken of as this or that " tyrant." The work 
was not published in its present form until twelve 
years afterwards, when it was addressed with a 
dedication to Philip, the heir to the throne. 

The above, however, was not the only, or, 
perhaps, the most important, work Las Casas 
wrote about this time. He also drew up a me- He writes 

a memorial 

morial, which is in itself an elaborate work, con- called 


sisting of twenty reasons to prove that the Indians R^ones. 
ought not to be given to the Spaniards either in 
encomienda, in fee, in vassalage, or in any other 


manner. It appears from the title ( Veynte Ba- 
zones), that it was written at the Emperor's com- 
mand for the information of a certain great junta 
which was to be held at Valladolid, in the year 
1542. There is one very striking passage in the 
Memorial, in which Las Casas states that the In- 
dians were subjected to four masters, namely, 
first, His majesty the Emperor; secondly, their 
own caciques ; thirdly, their Encomendero ; and 
fourthly, his manager, who, as Las Casas said, 
" weighed more upon them than an hundred 

Among the achievements of the statesmen, 
churchmen, and lawyers, who distinguished them- 
selves as Protectors of the Indians during the first 
half of the sixteenth century, those of Las Casas 
are incomparably the most prominent. It cannot 
even be said of any other protector, as was said of 
the second competitor in the race in Virgil's 
j3£neid } that he was next to the foremost man, 
" though next after a long interval ; " * for Las 

* " Primus abit, longeque ante omnia corpora Nisus 
Emicat, et ventis et fulminis ocior alis. 
Proximus huic, longo sed proximus intervallo, 
Insequitur Salius." — vEneid, lib. v. 318. 


Casas was entirely alone in his pre-eminence, and 
was the prime mover on almost all the great 
occasions when the welfare of the Indians occupied 
the attention of the court of Spain. 

Gonzalo Pizarro's rebellion in Peru, which the 
remarkable sagacity of the licentiate Pedro de la 
Gasca only just sufficed to quell, was directly 
traceable to the disinclination to adopt the New 
Laws; and two minor rebellions which followed 
were also caused by these same ordinances. The New Laws 

due to the 

New Laws had been a signal triumph for Las energy of 

Las Casas. 
Casas. Without him, without his untiring energy 

and singular influence over those whom he came 
near, these laws would not have been enacted. 
The mere bodily fatigue which he endured was 
such as hardly any man of his time, not a con- 
queror, had encountered. He had crossed the The labours 
ocean twelve times. Four times he had made his 
way into Germany, to see the Emperor* Had a 
record been kept of his wanderings, such as that 
which exists of the journeys of Charles the Fifth, 
it would have shown that Las Casas had led a 
much more active life than even that energetic 
monarch. Moreover, the journeyings of Las Casas 
were often made with all the inconvenience of 



of his life 
resumed at 
the year 

Las Casas 
is offered 

of Cusco. 

Las Casas 
refuses the 
of Cusco. 

poverty, and were not in any respect like a royal 

It was in 1543 that Las Casas, being at Bar- 
celona, whither he had gone to thank the Emperor 
for the promulgation of the New Laws, was sur- 
prised by an offer which would have delighted 
most other men, but which to him was singularly 
unwelcome. One Sunday evening he was ho- 
noured by receiving a visit from the Emperor's 
secretary, Francisco de los Cobos, who came to 
press upon his acceptance the bishopric of Cusco 
(a town in the province of New Toledo), vacant 
by the death of Bishop Valverde. Now, there 
were weighty reasons why this offer of a bishopric 
should be unwelcome to Las Casas. To prove 
that he was moved by no private interest in 
his advocacy of the cause of the Indians, he 
had publicly and solemnly renounced all per- 
sonal favour or gratification that Charles the Fifth 
could bestow upon him. Moreover, his flock was 
already larger than that in any bishopric ; and to 
become a bishop was, for Las Casas, a limitation 
of the sphere of his philanthropic endeavours. 
Accordingly he refused the bishopric of Cusco, 
and quitted Barcelona. 



He was not, however, to escape being raised to Chiapa 

made a 

the episcopal dignity. The province of Chiapa diocese. 
had recently been constituted into a diocese ; and 
the first bishop who had been appointed had died 
on his way to the seat of his bishopric. The 
Council of the Indies felt that it would be de- 
sirable to have a bishop in that diocese who would 
look to the execution of the New Laws. The 
province of Chiapa was at a great distance from 
Mexico, where there was an audiencia, and also 
from Honduras, where a new one was about to 
be constituted, to be called the Audiencia of the 
Confines. Chiapa, therefore, might be much mis- 
governed, unless it had a vigorous bishop. The 
Council resolved that Las Casas should have this 
bishopric pressed upon him. The heads of the 
Dominican order were of opinion that Las Casas 
ought not to refuse this offer; and, after being 
exposed to entreaty of all kinds, it being pressed 
upon him as a matter of conscience that he should 
accept the bishopric, he at last conquered his re- Las Casas 

. t n . accepts the 

pugnance, and submitted himself to the will of his bishopric of 



Having accepted the bishopric, Las Casas in- 
stantly set off for Toledo, where a chapter of his 


Takes with 
him some 

Las Casas 
to his 
July, 1544. 

Las Casas 
and the 
arrive at 

order was about to be held, and where he resolved 
to ask permission to carry out with him a number 
of Dominican monks, w T ho might assist him in 
christianising his diocese. The permission was 
granted. Several monks were chosen, who with 
Las Casas prepared themselves for their journey 
and voyage to the New World. Las Casas was 
consecrated at Seville ; and on a Wednesday, the 
4th of July, 1544, the new bishop, with his friend 
Rodrigo de Ladrada, and some clerigos, took his 
departure from Spain. The monks who accom- 
panied him were forty -four in number, and were 
under the orders of their vicar, Thomas Casillas. 
They all set sail from San Lucar ; and, after touch- 
ing at the Canary Islands, arrived at the island of 
Hispaniola. The bishop was exceedingly ill re- 
ceived there. Indeed, he was the most unpopulai 
man in the New World, as being the one who 
had done most to restrain the cruelty and curb 
the power of the Spanish conquerors. We can- 
not pursue the voyages and the journeyings of 
the bishop and the monks until they reached the 
province of Chiapa, and were installed in the town 
of Ciudad Real, the capital of that province. 
There exists, however, a minute account of all 


their proceedings, which is most interesting, and 
serves to show the hardships which such men 
underwent at that period before they could estab- 
lish themselves in the Indies. 

The episcopal dignity made no change in the The habits 

of Las 

ways or manners of Las Casas. His dress was Casas as a 


that of a simple monk, often torn and patched. 
He ate no meat himself, though it was provided 
for the clergy who sat at table with him. There 
was no plate to be seen in his house, nothing but 
earthenware ; and in all respects his household 
was maintained in the simplest manner.* He 
had lost all his books, which had been on board a 
vessel that had sunk in Campeachy Bay. This 
was a great grief to the good bishop, who, amidst 
all his other labours, was a diligent student giving The bishop 

. a student. 

especial attention to the voluminous works of 

* " En su persona se tratd siempre como frayle, un habito 
humilde, y algunas vezes roto y remendado. Jamas se puso 
tunica de liengo, ni durmio sino en sabanas de estamena, y 
una fragada por colcha rica. No comia carne, aunque para 
los clerigos que assistian a, su mesa se servia con mucha mo- 
deration, coma se ha dicho. Comia en platos de varro, y 
las alhajas de su casa eran nmy pocas"— Hemes al, Hist, 
de Chiapa y Guatemala, lib. vi. cap. 2. 


of the 
natives in 

The bishop 
forbids ab- 
solution in 

of the colo- 
nists of 

Thomas Aquinas, which were a needful armoury 
to all those who had any controversy to maintain 
in that age. 

It was only at rare intervals that Las Casas 
achieved success, or knew happiness; and the 
sufferings of the Indians oppressed his soul here, 
in Chiapa, as they had done in other parts of the 
New World. The members of his household 
could often hear him sighing and groaning in his 
own room at night. His grief used to reach its 
height when some poor Indian woman would come 
to him, and, throwing herself at his feet, exclaim 
with tears, " My father, great lord, I am free. 
Look at me ; I have no mark of the brand on my 
face ; and yet I have been sold for a slave. De- 
fend me, you, who are our father." And Las 
Casas resolved to defend these poor people. His 
way of doing so was by forbidding absolution to 
be given to those Spaniards who held slaves', con- 
trary to the provisions contained in the New 
Laws. This bold measure raised a perfect storm 
in his diocese. Some of the colonists and con- 
querors put the question as a point of honour. 
" If we dismiss these Indians," they said, " and 
cease to buy and sell them as we have hitherto 


done, they will say that we have been tyrants 
from the beginning, and that we cannot do with 
them what we have done, since a simple monk like 
this restores them to their liberty. They will 
laugh at us, mock at us, and cry after us in the 
streets ; and there will not be an Indian who will 
do what a Spaniard may command him." 

There was nothing that the Spaniards in Ciu- Hostility to 

the bishop 

dad Real did not say and do to molest the bishop, in his 

9 diocese. 

They called him a " Bachelor by the Tiles ; ' a 
phrase of that time, signifying one who had not 
been a regular student of theology, who had en- 
tered by the roof, and not by the door. They 
made verses upon him, of an opprobrious kind, 
which the children sang in the streets. An 
arquebuse, without ball, was discharged at his 
window, to alarm him. His dean would not obey 
him, and gave absolution to some persons who 
notoriously had Indians for slaves. The Do- 
minican monks partook of the unpopularity of the 
bishop. Finally, Las Casas resolved to seek re- He appeals 
dress, not for his own wrongs, but for those of his 
Indian flock, from the Royal Audiencia of the 
Confines; and he made a journey to Honduras 
for that purpose. There is a letter of his, dated 


to the 




the 22nd of October, 1545, addressed to that au- 
diencia, in which he threatened the Auditors with 
excommunication unless they should provide a 
remedy for the evils which existed in his diocese. 
When he appeared before them, the president, far 
from listening favourably to the protestations of 
Las Casas, poured forth a torrent of abuse upon 
Reply of him : " You are a scoundrel, a bad man, a bad 
dent to Las monk, a bad bishop, a shameless fellow ; and you 
deserve to be chastised." " I do deserve all that 
your lordship says," Las Casas replied. The 
bishop said this ironically, recollecting how much 
he had laboured to obtain for this judge his 

Notwithstanding his bad reception in the first 
instance from the Auditors of the Confines, the 
bishop at last succeeded in persuading them to 
agree to send an Auditor to Ciudad Real, who 
should see to the execution of the new laws. The 
inhabitants of Ciudad Heal were informed by 
His flock letter of this fact ; and they determined to make 
the most strenuous resistance to the return of 
their bishop into the city. They prepared a pro- 
test, in which they said that he had never shown 
any bull from the pope, or mandate from the em- 


to resist 
Las Casas 


peror, authorizing him to exercise the rights of a 
bishop. They insisted upon his proceeding like 
the other' bishops of New Spain, and not intro- 
ducing innovations. If he did not assent to this, 
they would deprive him of his temporalities, and 
refuse to admit him as their bishop. They placed 
a body of Indians on the road that he would have 
to traverse in returning to their city, having de- 
termined that they would not let him enter, unless, 
as they said, he would treat them as Christians, 
allowing them absolution, and not endeavour to 
take away their slaves, nor to fix the tribute 

of their encomiendas. Against the bishop, who Their pre- 

would come " unguarded and on foot, with only a for resist- 

stick in his hand, and a breviary in his girdle," 

they prepared coats of mail and corslets, arque- 
buses, lances, and swords. The Indians were 
posted some way out of the city, as sentinels, to 
give notice of his approach. Meanwhile Las 
Casas had arrived at Copanabastla, where there 
was a Dominican monastery, and where he learnt 
what reception was awaiting him in his diocese. 
The Dominicans counselled him not to proceed ; 
but. the bishop's opinion was that he should fear- 
lessly prosecute his journey. i( For," he said, " if 

The bishop I do not go to Ciudad Real, I banish myself from 

resolves to 

enter his my church ; and it will be said of me, with much 


reason, e The wicked fleeth ; and no man pur- 
sueth.'" He did not deny that the intelligence 
was true, and that his flock were prepared to kill 
him. " But," he said, " the minds of men change 
from hour to hour, from minute to minute, from 
moment to moment. Is it possible that God has 
been so chary with the men of Ciudad Real as to 
deny His holy assistance in causing them to abstain 
from so great a crime as putting me to death ? 
If I do not endeavour to enter my church, of 
whom shall I have to complain to the king, or to 
the pope, as having thrust me out of it ? Are my 
adversaries so bitter against me that the first 
word will be a deadly thrust through my heart, 
without giving me the chance of soothing them ? 
In conclusion, reverend fathers, I am resolved, 
trusting in the mercy of God and in your holy 
prayers, to set out for my diocese. To tarry here, 
or to go elsewhere, has all the inconveniences 
which have just been stated." So saying, he rose 
from his seat ; and, gathering up the folds of his 
scapulary, he commenced his journey. 

Now the Indian sentinels had heard that the 


bishop's baggage, which had preceded him, had 
been taken back, and they were consequently 
quite at their ease. The inhabitants of Ciudad 
Real had also heard of this, and there was great 
joy in the city ; as they thought that their prepa- 
rations had daunted the bishop. 

Suddenly the bishop in his journey came upon 
these Indian sentinels. They fell at his feet, and The Indian 


with tears besought his pardon. " It was beau- fall at the 


tiful to hear the harangue which each of them feet. 
made, clinging to the feet of the bishop, and 
speaking in the Mexican language, which is very 
expressive of the affections."* The kind bishop 
was not angry with the Indians, and his only 
fear was lest they should be scourged or put to 
death for not having given notice of his approach. 
He, therefore, with his own hands, assisted by a 
certain Father Vicente who was with him, tied 
these Indians to one another, and made them 
follow behind him, as if they were his prisoners. 
He did this partly with his own hands, in order 

* " Y era donoso el modo de la arenga que cada uno 
abraqado con los pies del Obispo dezia en lengua Mexicana, 
que es muy significativa de afectos." — Remesal, Hist, de 
Chiapa y Guatemala, lib. vii. cap. 8. 


The bishop 
enters Ciu- 
dad Real. 

ings in the 

that two or three Spaniards who were with him, 
and a negro, who always accompanied him because 
he was very tall and could carry the bishop across 
the rivers, might not be subject to the charge of 
having bound the Indians. That same night, as 
the bishop journeyed, there was an earthquake at 
Ciudad Ileal ; and the citizens said, " The bishop 
must be coming, and those dogs of Indians have 
not told us of it : — this earthquake is a sign of the 
destruction that is to come upon the city when he 
arrives in it." 

The bishop travelled all night, and reached 
Ciudad Real at day-break. He went straight to 
the church ; and thither he summoned the alcaldes 
and regidors to meet him. They came, followed 
by all the inhabitants of the city, and seated them- 
selves, as if to hear a sermon. When the bishop 
advanced from the sacristy, no man asked his 
benediction, or spoke a word to him, or made any 
sign of courtesy. Then the notary to the Town 
Council rose, and read a paper containing the re- 
quisitions which had been agreed upon. To this 
the bishop replied in a speech of much gentleness 
and modesty; and his words were producing a 
considerable effect on his hearers, when one of 


the regidors, without rising, or taking off his cap, 
commenced a speech, blaming the bishop, whom 
he described as a private individual, for presuming 
to summon them there instead of coming to the 
Town Council. 

" Look you, sir," the bishop replied, " when I 
have to ask you anything from your estates, I 
will go to your houses to speak to you ; but, when 
the things which I have to speak about relate to 
the service of God and the good of your souls, I 
have to send and summon you, and to command 
that you should come wherever I may be ; and if 
you are Christians, you have to come trooping 
there in haste, lest evil fall upon you." These 
words, spoken with great animation, had the 
effect of dismaying and silencing the bishop's 

.He rose and prepared to go into the sacristy, 
when the secretary of the Town Council went up 
to him, and presented a petition that he would 
name confessors. " I shall willingly do so," said 
the bishop ; and with a loud voice he named two 
confessors. They were, however, well known to 
be of his own way of thinking. The people, 
therefore, were not satisfied. The bishop then 


named two others, of whose good disposition he 
was well aware, but who were not so well known 
as his partizans. The monk who had accompanied 
him on his journey, Fray Vicente de Ferrer, laid 
hold of the bishop's vestments, and exclaimed, 
" Let your lordship die rather than do this," for 
he was not aware of the character of these men 
whom the bishop had named, and thought he was 
giving way to clamour. Immediately a great 
tumult arose in the church ; and, at that juncture, 
two monks of the Order of Mercy entered it, who 
persuaded the bishop and his companion to with- 
draw from the crowd, and to accompany them to 
their convent. 

Las Casas, having journeyed on foot all night, 

was exceedingly exhausted ; and the monks were 

giving him some bread, when they heard a great 

The convent noise, and found that an armed populace had 

beset by 

armed men. surrounded the convent. Some of the armed 
men forced their way even to the cell where the 
bishop was. A new grievance, which had infu- 
riated them, was that their Indian sentinels had 
been bound and treated as prisoners. The bishop 
said that he alone was to blame in the matter ; 
that he had come upon these Indians suddenly, 


and had bound them with his own hands, lest they 
should be suspected of having voluntarily favoured 
him, and be accordingly maltreated. One of the 
rioters, a certain Pedro de Pando, said, " You see 
here the way of the world. He is the saviour 
of the Indians, and look, he it is who binds them. 
Yet this same man will send memorials against 
us to Spain, declaring that we maltreat them." 
After this, another of the inhabitants of Ciudad 
Real poured out most foul language against the 
bishop. Las Casas only said, " I do not choose, 
sir, to answer you, in order not to take out of 
God's hands your chastisement ; for these insults 
are not addressed to me, but to Him." 

While this was going on in the cell of the 
bishop, one of the mob in the courtyard had been 
quarrelling with Juanillo, the bishop's negro, say- 
ing that it was he who had tied the Indians, and 
he gave the negro a thrust with a pike which 

stretched him on the ground. The monks rushed The con- 

• i vent * s 

forward to assist the negro; and two of them, cleared of 

its invaders. 

who were youths, showed such courage that the 
Fathers of Mercy succeeded in clearing, by main 
force, their convent from its invaders. It was 
now nine o'clock in the morning. But by mid- 


Changje of day so great a change had been wrought in the 

mood in 

the rioters minds of the inhabitants of Ciudad Real, so com- 

of Ciudad 

Real. pletely had they come to a sense of the turbu- 

lence and shamefulness of their conduct, that 
nearly all of them proceeded to the convent, and, 
on their knees, besought the bishop's pardon, 
kissed his hands, and said that they were his 
children. The alcaldes, as a sign of submission, 
would not carry their wands of office in his pre- 
sence ; others took off their swords ; and, in festal 
procession, they brought the bishop out of the 
convent, carried him to the house of one of the 
principal inhabitants, and sent him various costly 
presents. Nay more, they resolved to hold a tour- 
nament in honour of their bishop, a mark of their 
favour and esteem he could, perhaps, have dis- 
pensed with. Certainly few men have ever expe- 
rienced stranger turns of fortune than Las Casas 
did in the course of this memorable day of his re- 
turn to his diocese. The very suddenness of the 
change of feeling in his flock was a circumstance 
that might well have engendered in his mind 
misgivings as to the future, and have disgusted 
him with the office of ruling as bishop over the 
turbulent and versatile citizens of Ciudad Real, 
the chief city of Chiapa, 


But, indeed, in no part of the New World 
would Las Casas have had an easy life. It was 
at this time that Gonzalo Pizarro's rebellion in 
Peru was at its height, and that the resistance to 
the New Laws was so great that Charles the Revocation 

of the New 

Fifth was obliged to revoke them. What anguish Laws. 

must have been caused to Las Casas by the 

revocation of these laws is known to no man. 

Notwithstanding the disasters he experienced, 

which would have crushed the spirit of almost How Las 

any other person, his zeal never slackened, and the revoca- 
tion of the 
his practical sagacity taught him not to reproach New Laws. 

Charles the Fifth or his ministers for a backward 
course of legislation, which he knew had been 
forced upon them by calamity. For himself, he 
maintained his ground that the granting of 
encomiendas to private persons was a great injus- 
tice to the native Indians; but he seems to have 
accepted the new position of affairs, and to have 
bent his efforts to improving that system which 
he must have felt could not now be destroyed by 
a mere mandate from the court of Spain. At any 
rate, he did not protest against the revocation of 
the new laws as an act of folly or weakness on the 
part of the Spanish authorities at home. This 
revocation, could not have been known at this 


time to the audiencia of the confines, for they 
fulfilled their promise of sending one of their body 
to Chiapa. 
tor's ad- This Auditor heard, with attention and respect, 

bishop. the representations that Las Casas made to him 

on behalf of the Indians. But one day he thus re- 
plied : — " Your lordship well knows that although 
these new laws were framed at Valladolid, with 
the accordances of sundry grave personages (as 
your lordship and I saw), one of the reasons 
that has made these laws hateful in the Indies 
has been the fact of your having had a hand in 
them. The conquerors consider your lordship 
as so prejudiced against them, that they believe 
that what you do in favour of the natives is not 
so much from love of the Indians as from hatred 
of the Spaniards. As they entertain this opinion, 
if I have to deprive any of them of their slaves 
or estates, they will feel more its being done 
in your presence than they will the loss itself. 
Don Tello de Sandoval (the president of the 
Audiencia at Mexico) has summoned your lord- 
ship for a synod of prelates ; and I shall be glad, 
if you will hasten your departure, for, until you 
have gone, I can do nothing." 


The bishop had been preparing to attend this The bishop 

goes to a 

iynod, and he now took his departure. He never s y n <>d at 

A Mexico. 

beheld his diocese again. 

When he approached the city of Mexico there His recep- 
tion in that 
was a tumult as if a hostile army were about to city. 

occupy the city. The authorities were obliged 
to write to him, begging him to defer his entry 
until the minds of men should be somewhat 
quieted.* He afterwards entered in the daytime, 
without receiving any insult. He took up his 
abode in the Dominican monastery; and on the 
first day of his arrival, the viceroy and the Audi- 
tors sent word that they were ready to receive a 
visit from him. His reply evinced his habitual 
boldness, but, at the same time, betrayed the want 
of worldly wisdom that was occasionally manifest 

* The hatred to Las Casas throughout the New World 
amounted to a passion. Letters were written to the resi- 
dents in Chiapa, expressing pity for them as having met the 
greatest misfortune that could occur to them, in being 
placed under such a bishop. They did not name him, but 
spoke of him as " That Devil who has come to you for a 
bishop." The following is an extract from one of these 
letters. " We say here, that very great must be the sins of 
your country, when God chastises it with such a scourge as 
sending that Antichrist for a bishop." 


in him. There was quite enough difficulty in the 

affairs which he had to manage, on his own ac- 

He refuses count; but he felt it his duty to inform the 

to visit the 

king's Offi- king's officers that they must excuse his visiting 
Mexico. them, as they were excommunicated, since they 
had given orders for cutting off the head of a 
priest at Anteguera. This answer was soon 
made known throughout the city of Mexico, and 
increased the odium under which Las Casas 

Proceed- The synod of prelates and other learned men 

ings of the 

Synod at commenced its proceedings, and laid down as a 

basis five principal points. 1st, That all unbe- 

The prin- lievers, of whatever sect or religion they might 

ciples laid ' t ° . 

down by be, and whatever sins they might have committed 

the Synod. * . 

against natural, national, or divine law, have 
nevertheless a just lordship over their own pos- 
sessions. 2nd, That there are four different kinds 
of unbelievers. The object of laying down this 
maxim is not obvious at first, and requires a 
knowledge of the controversies of that age. The 
object was to place the Indians in the second class 
of unbelievers; and more than once, on great 
occasions, Las Casas placed them in the same 


division as the ancient British, thus dividing them 
from those barbarians who had no arts or polity 
whatever. 3rd, That the final and only reason 
why the Apostolic See had given supreme juris- 
diction in the Indies to the Kings of Castile and 
Leon was, that the gospel might be preached, 
and the Indians be converted. It was not to make 
those kings greater lords and richer princes than 
they were. 4th, That the Apostolic See, in grant- 
ing this supremacy to the Kings of Castile and 
Leon, did not mean thereby to deprive the lords 
of the Indians of their estates, lordships, juris- 
dictions, or dignities. 5th, That the Kings of 
Castile and Leon were bound to provide the re- 
quisite expenses for the conversion of the Indians 
to the true faith. 

Taking the foregoing as their main principles, 
the synod made many deductions very unfavour- 
able to the claims of the conquerors; and espe- 
cially they pronounced what were the conditions 
upon which absolution should be granted by con- 
fessors to the Spanish colonists, into which condi- 
tions restitution entered. 

The proceedings of this synod were very bold, 
but Las Casas was not satisfied with them, because 



Las Casas 

Las Casas 
resolves to 
go to Spain. 

the particular point of slavery, though much dis- 
cussed, was not resolved upon. He therefore 
summoned a junta, which was attended by all the 
learned men except the bishops; and this junta 
pronounced that the Spaniards who had made 
slaves were <e tyrants ; " that the slaves were to be 
considered as illegally made; and that all those 
who possessed them were bound to liberate them. 
They also pronounced against the personal service 
of the Indians. 

It must not be supposed that the members 
of this junta imagined that their decisions would 
immediately insure the liberation of the Indians. 
These learned men contented themselves with de- 
claring to their countrymen what they held to be 
the truth, and informing them of what was neces- 
sary for the salvation of their souls. They wer*> 
not bound to do anything more. 

Las Casas did not return from Mexico to his 
bishopric. Ever since his interview with the 
Auditors of the Confines he had resolved to go 
back to Spain; and the reason which he gave to 
one of his reverend brethren was, that when at 
court, and near the king and his council, he 
would be able to do more good service, both to 


his own province and to the whole Indies, than 
by staying in his diocese, especially as he had 
now members of his own Order stationed there, 
who could correspond with him, and inform him 
of whatever evil might require a remedy. 

He accordingly prepared to act upon this re- 
solve. He appointed confessors for his diocese, 
and regulated the conditions of absolution, which 
were expressed in twelve rules. He nominated 
a vicar-general for his bishopric, and then pro- 
ceeded from Mexico to Spain, where he resigned 
the bishopric* His return was in the year 

One of the biographers of Las Casas states, that 
the bishop was obliged to return to Spain to an- 
swer certain charges that were made against him, 
chiefly touching his formulary of confession, and 
that he went back as a prisoner. I do not find 
any authority for this statement; but it is certain 
that on the bishop's return to Spain he did appear 
before the Council of the Indies, and had to 

and a vicar- 
Nov. 9, 

Resigns the 
bishopric of 

Justifies his 
of confes- 

* In 1555 he was allowed a pension of 200,000 
maravedis (108Z. 6s.), a sum not inconsiderable in that 


justify this forumlary, which he succeeded in 

The learned men of Spain were not all of the 
Bishop of Chiapa's way of thinking as regarded 
the rights and claims of the Indians. A certain 
Doctor Juan Gines Sepulveda,* principal histori- 
ographer to Charles the Fifth, a man of great 
renown for learning in those days, had recently 
written a treatise entitled, Democrates Secundus, 
sive de Justis Belli Causis, in which he maintained, 
in a very able manner, the right of the Pope and 
of the kings of Spain to subdue by war the inha- 
bitants of the New World. Sepulveda called his 
new work Democrates Secundus, because he had 
previously written a book which was entitled 
Democrates : a Dialogue on the Honourable Nature 
of Military Study. The Democrates Secundus was 
also written in dialogue; and in it, Leopold, a 
German, made a formal statement, which probably 
was sanctioned by the voice of public opinion 
throughout Europe at that time, that the Spaniards 
had, without sufficient attention to the laws of 

* Sepulveda corresponded with Erasmus, Cardinals Pole 
and Contarini ; and was the author of many learned treatises. 


justice, piety, and Christianity, waged war against 
the innocent Indians. Sepulveda, under the name 
of Democrates, gave a full reply to his friend 
Leopold's accusation of the Spaniards. 

Sepulveda's work met with no favour, even 
in the quarter where he might reasonably have 
expected that it would be sure to be well received. 
He submitted his treatise to the Council of the 
Indies in the first instance ; but they would not 
allow him to print it. He then appealed to 
Charles the Fifth, praying that his work should 
be laid before the Great Council of Castille. The 
Emperor consented. It was in 1547, when the 
court and the Great Councils of Spain were at 
Aranda de Duero, that the royal order from 
Charles arrived. Las Casas had also joined the Las Casas 

hears of 

court at that time, and then learnt what was the Sepulve- 
da s work. 
nature of this treatise written by Sepulveda, upon 

which there was so much question. As may be 

imagined, he made the most determined and 

vigorous opposition to Sepulveda's views, — to use 

his own words, " discovering and bringing to light 

the poison of which the work was full." The 

council submitted the Democraies Secundus, for 

examination, to the universities of Alcala and 





I Salamanca. The decision of these learned bodies 

not allowed 
to print his 
work in 

was unfavourable to Sepulveda ; and the per- 
mission to print was still refused. Sepulveda 
turned to Rome, where he had a great friend, 
who was Auditor of the Rota; and, under his 
auspices, the work, or rather an apology for the 
work, containing the substance of it, was printed 
at Rome in 1550.* Charles the Fifth forbade its 
introduction into Spain. The author thereupon 
drew up a version in Spanish of his Apology, and 
did what he could to put that in circulation. The 
Apology is now to be found in Sepulveda's works, 
reprinted from the Roman edition. It does not 
contain anything which would at first sight be 
thought to be displeasing to the monarchs of 
Nature of Spain. Sepulveda declares that to Jesus Christ 

da streatise all power was given in heaven and earth, and that 

De Justis 

Belli Causis. this power devolved upon the Pope, who accord- 
ingly possessed authority in every land, not only 
for the preaching of the gospel, but also for com- 
pelling men to obey the law of nature. The 
author defends his position by references to St. 
Augustine, St. Ambrose, St. Gregory, and the 

* The title is Apologia pro Libro de Justis Belli Causis. 


great authority of the middle ages, Thomas Aqui- 
nas. He appeals to history, citing the law of 
capital punishment enacted by " that most pious 
emperor," Constantine, against those pagans who 
should persevere in their rites and sacrifices. He 
maintains that men who are in a grievous state of 
error are to be recalled to the truth, whether they 
like it or not. He urges that more can hp. p/ffW prl 
in a month by conquest than in a hundred years 
by_mere preaching. Miracles are not to be asked 
for, when human means, having the sanction of 
divine authority, can attain the same end. " The 
preachers of our time," he says, " without miracles, 
cannot effect more than the apostles did, blessed 
with the co-operation of the Lord, and their words 
being confirmed by miracles." "War, therefore, 
was a necessity. If the natives were taught 
without being terrified, being obdurate in their 
old ways, they would be much more slowly moved 
to adopt the true faith. 

If Las Casas had been ardent in his opposition 
to Sepulveda's doctrines, when they were not 
printed, and while they could be read by those 
only who understood Latin, his ardour was re- 
doubled when they were translated into Spanish, 


and could be joyfully perused by the conquerors 
in the Indies and their adherents at court, who 
would pronounce them to be most comfortable 
doctrines, and readily assign the palm of know- 
ledge and of wisdom to this learned doctor, who 
justified the ways of his countrymen to themselves. 
The go- Ji j s true that the government were not remiss. 

vernment ° 

prohibitthe They seized upon whatever copies of Sepulveda's 

publication j s. i j. 

of the Apo- Apology they could lay hold of, and stnct]y_fojc±_ 
bade its circulation.* But prohibited works are 
often not the less read on account of the pro- 
hibition. It is not likely that any of the numerous 
band of agents and proctors who thronged the 
court of Spain, and besieged it with applications 
on behalf of the conquerors and colonists of the 
New World, were ignorant of the arguments 
which Sepulveda had urged, and which might 

* It is worthy of notice that there could have been no 
personal hostility to Sepulveda on the part of the govern- 
ment. He was not punished for the publication of the 
Apology. Charles the Fifth's friendship was not withdrawn 
from him ; and he was one of the few persons who after- 
wards visited that monarch in his retreat at Yuste, where 
he was kindly welcomed by Charles. See the graphic ac- 
count of The Cloister Life of Charles the Fifths written by 
Mr. Stirling, p. 124. 


salve the troubled consciences, if troubled they 
were, of these conquerors and colonists. Las 
Casas set himself more seriously to work than 
ever to refute doctrines so fatal to his cause, and 
which had thus obtained extended publication and 

A great ferment arose about the controversy. 
In times like our own, when there is so much that 
is exciting and amusing in literature, it is difficult 
to imagine the interest that was felt in learned 
controversy in those ages, when controversy was 
the chief excitement and amusement of learned 
men. In this case, moreover, there were many 
and great interests concerned. 

Las Casas was not the only person who had 
been shocked by the doctrines or the expressions 
in Sepulveda's work, and who had sought to 
controvert them. Melchior Cano, a Dominican, Melchior 

Cano and 

renowned in those times for learning, had found the Bishop 

of Segovia 

passages in the Democrates Secundus " which were oppose Se- 

offensive to pious ears." The Bishop of Segovia 
had also been an ardent opponent to Sepulveda ; 
and it was to him that the Apology for the work 
was addressed. Cano's objection to the book 
seems mainly to have turned upon an expression 



which had been used by the author in reference 

to St. Paul, Sepulveda having said that St. Paul 

had borne contumely with impatience, or words 

to that effect. A long correspondence ensued 

between the friends, for Cano was a friend of 

Sepulveda; but the real gist of the question is 

not touched upon in this correspondence. Las 

Casas was the opponent whom Sepulveda had 

Sepuive- most to fear; and he seems to have had some- 
da's feel- 
ings to- what of the same feeling towards him that his 

wards Las 

Casas. friend Erasmus must have had for the impetuous 

Luther. The refined scholar Sepulveda, "the 
Livy of Spain," as he has been called, looked 
upon the earnest Las Casas as a furious and 
dangerous person, " of better intentions than 
judgment ; " yet (for he seems to have been an 
amiable man) declared that he bore no enmity 
to the bishop, and only prayed " that God would 
grant him a calmer mind, that he might learn 
sometimes to prefer quiet cogitations to turbulent 

Sepulveda might feel disgust at the uncon- 
trolled temper of his opponent, and might despise 
his lesser acquisitions of learning, and his com- 
paratively rude Latinity. But he was soon to 


learn what strength there was in an adversary 
whose practical knowledge of the subject in dis- 
pute was greater than that of any living man ; 
whose eloquence was equal to his vehemence, 
and not hindered by it; and who brought a 
fervour to the cause which exceeded even that 
of an author publicly defending his own work, 
and one who must have thought himself most 
ungratefully used by the court and the univer- 
sities in Spain. 

Charles the Fifth convoked at_Valladolid, in Junta at 


1550, a„ junta-_o£~ theologians and other learned to hear the 


men to hear this great cause argued, " Whether between 


war of the kind that is called a war of conquest and Las 
could be lawfully undertaken against the nations 
of the New World, if they had not committed 
any new faults other than those they had com- 
mitted in the times of their infidelity." The 
Council of the Indies was associated with this 
junta ; and altogether it consisted of fourteen 
persons. This practice of summoning persons of 
special knowledge to assist the authorities in the 
determination of difficult questions, was one of 
the greatest advantages which the government of 
Spain possessed at that period. 



Las Casas Doctor Sepulveda appeared before the junta, 

veda appear an( j delivered a statement of the arguments on 

before the ° 

junta. hjg s ^e. The bishop was then summoned for a 

hearing; and, in five consecutive days, he read 
that laborious work of his, which is called the 
Historia Apologetica. It is rich in facts and argu- 
ments of every description, and he had been many 
years preparing it. 

The junta had deputed Domingo de Soto, # 
Charles's Confessor, to give a summary of the 
arguments on both sides. This he did in a very 
masterly manner. The summary was then sub- 
mitted to Doctor Sepulveda, who made a reply 
before the junta, containing twelve objections to 
the arguments of the bishop. The bishop then 
gave twelve answers to these objections, and the 
proceedings terminated. They were afterwards 
published as a work entitled u A Dispute or Con- 

* Mr. Hallam, speaking of the Relectiones Theological 
of Francis a Victoria, says, " The whole relection, as well as 
that on the Indians, displays an intrepid spirit of justice 
and humanity, which seems to have been rather a general 
characteristic of the Spanish theologians. Domingo Soto, 
always inflexibly on the side of right, had already sustained 
by his authority the noble enthusiasm of Las Casas." — 
Literature of Europe, part ii. chap. iv. sect. 3. 



troversy between the Bishop Don Fray Bartolome 
de las Casas, lately Bishop of Ciudad Real in 
Chiapa, and Doctor Gines Sepulveda, Historio- 
grapher to our Lord the Emperor." 

It would be impossible, and perhaps tedious to 
our readers, to attempt a full account of this im- 
portant controversy within the limits which this 
biography must occupy. The work which Las 
Casas read in five days embodies much of the 
knowledge and experience which he had been 
acquiring for fifty years. We can hardly doubt, 
moreover, that both the controversialists were 
aided by other learned men, for an astonishing 
weight of learning is brought to bear upon the 
disputed points. The skill with which it is 
summed up by Charles's Confessor is marvellous, 
considering the immense mass of material with 
which he had to deal, and that Las Casas was a 
man who sought to exhaust his subject by an 
appeal to facts and arguments drawn from every 
conceivable source. 

Doctor Sepulveda divided his statement of the 
case into four heads. It was lawful, he said, to 
commence war upon the natives in the New World 
for the four following reasons: — 

Nature of 
the con- 
and Las 

da s state- 
ment of the 


Sins of the 1st. For the gravity of the sins which the In- 

Indians. ° J 

dians had committed, especially their idolatries 
and their sins against nature. 
Rudeness 2nd. On account of the rudeness of their na- 

of their 

nature. tures, which brought upon them the necessity of 

serving persons of a more refined nature, such as 
that which the Spaniards possessed. 

Must be 3 r d. In order to spread the faith, which would 


before they b e m0 re readily accomplished by the prior sub- 
verted, jugation of the natives. 
Cruelties to 4th. To protect the weak amongst the natives 

one an- x ° 

other. themselves, duly considering the cruelties which 

the Indians exercised upon one another, slaying 
numbers in sacrifices to false gods, and practising 

It would have been difficult to make a better 
division of the subject than that adopted by 
Sepulveda. His fourth reason was well thought 
of, and put with much skill. He adduced in 
evidence the immense loss of life which had 
taken place in the sacrifices to idols amongst the 
Mexicans, and was enabled to argue that it 
exceeded the loss of life in war. This was not 
so ; but still the argument was a very plausible 


The dealings of the Israelites with the neigh- 
bouring idolaters formed the basis of the contro- 
versy upon the first reason, and gave room for 
elaborate argument. The doctor relied upon the 
command given to the Israelites, in the 20th 
chapter of Deuteronomy, to destroy the male in- 
habitants of those cities which should not be 
delivered up to them upon their demanding a 
surrender of the cities.* He dwelt especially 
on the 15th verse of that chapter, which says, 
" Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are 

* " When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against 
it, then proclaim peace unto it. 

" And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and 
open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is 
found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall 
serve thee. 

" And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make 
war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it : 

" And when the Lord thy God hath delivered it into 
thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the 
edge of the sword. 

" But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and 
all that is in the city •. even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou 
take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine 
enemies, which the Lord thy God hath given thee." — Deut. 
chap. xx. ver. 10-14. 



da s argu- 
ments from 


reply from 


very far off from thee, which are not of the cities 
of these nations." Upon this verse there is a 
gloss which declares that the words "far off" 
mean " of a different religion." Sepulveda con- 
sequently inferred that the Spaniards might make 
war upon any nation of a different religion from 
their own ; and he supported this view by other 
passages quoted from Deuteronomy. 

The bishop replied that the wars commanded 
by God against certain nations__wjere not com- 
manded in respect of their idolatry, as in that 
case the whole world, except Judaea, would have 
had to be conquered and chastised ; but it was 
only against the Canaanites, the Jebusites, and 
other tribes who possessed the Land of Promise 
that the Israelites were commanded to make war. 
The bishop relied upon the 7th verse of the 23rd 
chapter, which says, " Thou shalt not abhor an 
Edomite; for he is thy brother: thou shalt not 
abhor an Egyptian, because thou wast a stranger 
in his land." 

With regard to the gloss which gave to the 
words " far off," the signification M of a different 
religion," the bishop did not contend that this 
was a wrong reading, but he argued that the 


words did not mean that upon that account alone, 
namely difference of religion, war might be made 
upon distant nations by the Jews. The words 
"far off" served to distinguish other Gentiles 
from the seven tribes who occupied the Land of 
Promise, and to whom no terms of peace were to 
be offered. With them it was to be a war of ex- 
termination ; but there was nothing to show that 
a war with other Gentiles could be lawfully 
undertaken, solely on' account of their idolatry. 
Finally, the bishop urged this general argument, 
that the examples from the Old Testament, as 
regarded those cruel chastisements, were given 
us " to marvel at and not to imitate," for which 
assertion he alleged the authority of certain de- 

Upon the second reason, the rudeness of the 
Indian nature, Las Casas, with his extensive 
knowledge of Indian life, was easily triumphant ; 
and, upon the third reason, namely the extension 
of the true faith, Las Casas could appeal to his 
own successes, and those of his brother Domini- 
cans, in " the land of war." 

With regard to Doctor Sepulveda's fourth 
reason, Las Casas alleged the general rule, ee Of Answer of 


to Sepulve- two evils, choose the least." Human sacrifices 

da s fourth 

reason. were a less evil than indiscriminate warfare. 

" Thou shalt not kill," is a more positive com- 
mand than Thou shalt defend the innocent. 
Moreover, by these wars the true faith was de- 
famed, and had fallen into odium with the natives. 
Then Las Casas boldly urged what defence can 
Jbe urged for human sacrifices — namely, that to 
v, the barbarous and Gentile apprehension, they 
/ were an offering up to God of the best that 
xhe worshippers possessed. He reminded his 
hearers of the sacrifice that Abraham was 
ready to make. The bishop also brought 
forward instances of great nations, such as the 
Romans and the Carthaginians, who had not been 
free from the guilt of human sacrifice; and he 
quoted Plutarch to show that when the Romans 
themselves became more humane and civilized in 
this respect, and, in their march of conquest, came 
upon barbarous nations who were addicted to hu- 
man sacrifices, they did not punish them for this 
cause, but simply prohibited the commission of 
such offences for the future. 

This controversy was conducted throughout 
with much skill and learning upon both sides, and 


with constant danger to Las Casas of bringing 
upon himself the wrath of the higher ecclesiastical 
and civil authorities. As, for instance, in opposing 
Sepulveda on the ground that force should not be 
employed to promote the faith, he was obliged to 
use great tact ; for what was to be said about the 
past doings of many emperors and popes ? Indeed, 
in the course of his long career of controversy, it 
is a matter for surprise that he did not come with- 
in the grasp of the Inquisition. 

At the conclusion of his address to the junta, 
Las Casas made a fierce onslaught upon Doctor 
Sepulveda's mode of maintaining the rights of the 
kings of Spain. The following is the substance 
of what the bishop said upon this important 
branch of the controversy. " The doctor founds The 

. ... , bishop's 

these rights upon our superiority in arms, and view of the 

i -iTi ii i jurisdiction 

upon our having more bodily strength than the of the 

kings of 

Indians. This is simply to place our kings in Spain in 

the Indies. 

the position of tyrants. The right of those kings 
rests upon their extension of the Gospel in the 
New World, and their good government of the 
Indian nations. These duties they would be 
bound to fulfil even at their own expense ; much 
more so considering the treasures they have re- 


ceived from the Indies. To deny this doctrine 
is to flatter and deceive our monarchs, and to put 
their salvation in peril. The doctor perverts the 
natural order of things, making the means the 
end, and what is accessory the principal. The 
accessory is temporal advantage : the principal, 
the preaching of the true faith. He who is 
ignorant of this, small is his knowledge ; and he 
who denies it, is no more of a Christian than 
Mahomet was." 

Then, after a not unbecoming allusion to his 
own prolonged labours, the bishop says : — u To 
this end [that is, to prevent the total perdition 
of the Indies], I direct all my efforts : not, as the 
doctor would make out, to shut the gates of 
justification, and disannul the sovereignty of the 
kings of Castille ; but I shut the gates upon 
false claims made on their behalf, of no reality, 
altogether vain ; and I open the gates to those 
claims of sovereignty which are founded upon law, 
which are solid, strong, truly catholic, and truly 

Result of Thus the controversy ended. The result seems 

the con- 
troversy, to have been, substantially, a drawn battle. At 


first, according to Sepulveda, the jurists had to 
give way to the theologians. But a timely rein- 
forcement came to Sepulveda's aid, in the person 
of a learned Franciscan monk, named Bernardino 
Arevalo. At the beginning of the controversy 
he had been unable, from illness, to attend the 
junta; but, afterwards recovering, he brought 
such weight to Sepulveda's side of the argument, 
that the junta ultimately pronounced a sentence The junta 
(one theologian alone protesting against it), con- in favour of 
curring with the opinions expressed in Sepul- 
veda's treatise De Justis Belli Causis. His victory, 
however, was a fruitless one. The government 
must have been convinced the other way, or at 
least must have thought that the promulgation of 
Sepulveda's views would be dangerous ; for Prince 
Philip, then governing in the name of his father, 
gave directions that Sepulveda's work should not 
be allowed to enter the Indies. In royal orders, Sepuive- 
dated from Valladolid, in October and November tise not 

i t» • -it allowed to 

of that same year, 1550, the Prince commanded enter the 
the Viceroy of Mexico, and the Governor of 
Terra-firma, to seize upon any copy they could 
find of Sepulveda's work, and to send it back to 



Sepulveda seems to have felt that Las Casas 
had conducted the cause with exceeding vigour, 
and had proved himself a terrible opponent ; for, 
in a private letter describing the controversy, 
Sepulveda speaks of him as " most subtile, most 
vigilant, and most fluent, compared with whom 
the Ulysses of Homer was inert and stuttering." 
Las Casas, at the time of the controversy, was 
seventy- six years of age. 


Las Casas appeals to Philip II. through Carranza — He 
writes a Treatise on Peru — His Death — Review of his 

HE controversy with Sepulveda was 
but one of the many labours of Las 
Casas, and he continued to exercise 
his self-imposed functions of Protector to the 
Indians with his accustomed zeal. He resided 
in the Dominican college of St. Gregory at Val- 
ladolid, with his faithful friend and spiritual bro- 
ther, Ladrada, who seems to have spurred him 
to exertion in behalf of the Indians, as may be 
gathered from the following anecdote. Ladrada, 
being deaf, was in the habit of speaking loudly ; 
and the collegiate fathers could hear him, when 
he was confessing Las Casas, exclaim, " Bishop, 
beware lest you go to hell if you do not labour 
for a remedy for those poor Indians, as you are 

Las Casas 
resides in 
the Domi- 
nican col- 
lege at Val- 

of Ladrada 
to Las 



condition of 
Philip II. 

The rever- 
sion of the 

in duty bound to do." But this was more an 
admonition than a correction, as Remesal ob- 
serves, for never was there known in Las Casas 
the slightest carelessness in this respect, especially 
in those days. 

In the year 1555 there arose a great occasion 
for all the efforts that Las Casas could make on 
behalf of the Indians. Philip the Second had 
succeeded to the throne of Spain. He ruled over 
immense possessions, such as might well make 
him a terror to the European family of nations. 
But his finances were in a most deplorable state, 
and any project for improving them must have 
been very welcome to the king and his coun- 

Now there was one easy mode by which, with 
a few strokes of the pen, Philip could raise a very 
large sum of money. All the Spanish colonists 
in the New World held their possessions upon 
a most uncertain tenure. Philip had only to 
give up the claims of the crown to the reversion 
of the encomiendas, and he would be sure to 
receive an ample and immediate recompense. 
Neither had the monarch to begin the negotia- 
tion. There was already in England, attending 



Philip's Court, " a sinner," as Las Casas calls 
him, from Peru, who was urging some such 
measure on the monarch.* Never was the fate 
of the Indians in greater peril. There were, 
however, two persons, both of whom had laid 
down their high offices, and had retired into 
monasteries, who were towers of strength to the 
poor Indians. These were Charles the Fifth and 
Las Casas. The latter had shown great boldness 
on many occasions of his life, but on this his 
daring verged upon audacity. His appeal to 
Philip was made through the king's confessor, 
Bartolome Carranza de Miranda. Through him 
he dares to tell the monarch that any conclusion 
he may come to in England will be rash, because 
he is surrounded by few advisers, and those having 
no especial knowledge of the New World, and 
not being in communication with the Council 
of the Indies. If the king commits an error 
on this great occasion, can he allege the pretext 
of invincible ignorance ? Las Casas boldly tells 
Carranza, that in England and Flanders our 
sovereigns seem to have forgotten that they have 

Las Casas 
appeals to 
Philip II. 

Letter of 
Las Casas 
to Car- 

* Don Antonio de Ribera by name. 


a kingdom of Spain to govern. What right have 
they to impose upon the miserable Indians tri- 
butes of money, watered with tears, to pay the 
debts of their crown? How repugnant to all 
just ideas, and what an atrocity it is, to wish 
to promote the interests of the king, without 
thinking even of God ! If such a system is per- 
sisted in, will they in England and Flanders look 
with a favourable eye at this maxim, that the 
means may become the end, and the end the 
means? As to the encomenderos possessing any 
claim, they have not merited a single maravedi. 
" On the contrary I maintain," adds Las Casas, 
" that the king will be rigorously punished for 
not having chastised these assassins as they have 
deserved.* The kings of Castille owe a great 
debt to him who discovered the New World. 
They are also under obligation to those who have 
restored the royal authority in Peru. But they 
are not, on that account, to deliver up the wretched 
inhabitants as one gives up to the butcher the 

* " Je dirai, au contraire, que le roi sera rigoureuse- 
ment puni pour n' avoir pas chatie ces assassins comme ils 
l'ont merite." — Llorente, (Euvres de Don Barthelemi de 
las Casas, torn. ii. p. 135. Paris, 1822. 


most stupid animals to be slaughtered. If your Las Casas 

wishes the 

paternity thinks it right to read this clause to his letter to he 

read to 

highness, or indeed the whole of my memorial, Philip II. 
,1 beg you to believe that I shall feel the greatest 

To show that he was not the only person 
entirely opposed to the sale of the reversions of 
the encomiendas, Las Casas, in the course of this 
letter, makes the following statement : — " It is A member 

of the coun- 

about fifteen days ago that a member of the Council cil urges 

Las Casas 

of the Indies, horrified at what is now known of to further 


the situation of America, and at the proposition 
which is now mooted, made me fear the judg- 
ments of God, reproaching me with not doing 
half my duty in that I did not summon, twenty 
times a day, the whole earth to my aid, and that 
I did not go, with a stick in my hand and a beg- 
gar's wallet on my back, even into England, to 
protest against these tyrants; for it was to me 
that God had entrusted this charitable and dif- 
ficult undertaking. What would he have said if 
he had seen all that I have seen for the last sixty 
years ? " 

It is impossible to tell what effect this letter 
had upon Carranza, and upon Philip; but it is 



Charles V. 
of the sale 
of encomi- 

probable that it was considerable; and all the 
more so, in that he had not intruded his advice 
upon them, for it is evident, in the course of the 
letter, that they had first written to consult Las 
Casas upon the subject* 

Charles the Fifth was as decided as Las Casas 
upon the point at issue. If we may trust the 
report of the Venetian ambassador, Soriano, this 
was almost the only public matter that Charles 
had influenced, up to that time, since his retire- 
ment into the monastery of Yuste.f The dying 
emperor supported the views of his old friend 
Las Casas; and the weight of two such autho- 
rities on Indian affairs was such that the scheme 

The project of selling the reversion of the encomiendas, which 
is aban- 
doned, would have led to the total slavery of the Indians, 

was abandoned. 

Las Casas continued to occupy himself in the 

affairs of the Indies, corresponding with persons 

* " Je repondrai un peu plus loin a ce qu'elle" (son 
Altesse) " a dit de la necessite de pourvoir a l'entretien des 
Espagnols qui sont employes dans les Indes." — Llorente, 
CRuvres de Don Barthelemi de las Casas, torn. ii. p. 135. 

f See Ranke, Fursten und Volker von Sud Europa, 


in America, and being referred to for advice and 
information by the council at home. 

He also continued to labour at his greatest 
literary work, the History of the Indies. This 
work is said to have been commenced in 1527, 
when he first became a Dominican monk ; but it 
is clear from the last sentence but one in this 
History, that he was still engaged upon it in 
the year 1561, the eighty- seventh year of his own 

In 1564 he had reached his ninetieth year, and 
in that year he wrote a treatise on the subject of A treatise 

of Las 

Peru, which is, perhaps, one of the best that his Casas on 
fertile pen ever produced. As if he were aware 
that whatever he should do now must be done 
speedily, this paper is composed with more 
brevity, though not with less force, than almost 
any of his productions. In it there is a state- 
ment which the student may look for in vain 

* " Pero esta ignorancia y cequedad del Consejo del Rey 
tubo su origen primero, lo qual fue causa de proveer que 
se hiciesen aquellos requerimientos, y plega a Dios que hoy, 
que es elano que pasa de sesenta y uno, el consejo este 
libre della." — Las Casas, Hist, de las Indias, MS. lib. iii. 
cap. 166. 




An annual 
tribute in a 
certain en- 

amongst the most elaborate histories that were 
written at that period, or have been written since, 
of the Spanish Conquest in America. It is con- 
stantly mentioned that the tribute to be raised 
from encomiendas, in this or that district, was 
settled by this or that governor or royal auditor ; 
but no accurate account is given of what the tri- 
bute was. In this treatise of Las Casas is set 
forth the tribute to be paid annually by five hun- 
dred Indian families in Arequipa. They are to 
furnish, (1), 180 Peruvian sheep. An additional 
hardship was, that these sheep could not be pro- 
cured in that district, but had to be sought for 
in a neighbouring province. (2), 300 pieces of 
cotton goods, each sufficient for the dress of 
an Indian; (3), 1000 bushels of maize; (4), 
850 bushels of wheat; (5), 1000 fowls; (6), 
1000 sacks, with cords to them; (7), 60 bas- 
kets of coca; (8), 100 cotton napkins; (9), 30 
swine; (10), 50 arrobas of camaron * (a kind of 
fish) ; (11), 500 arrobas of another kind of fish; 
(12), 5 arrobas of wool; (13), 40 skins of sea- 

* An arroba was twenty-five pounds in weight, each 
pound consisting of sixteen ounces. 


wolves, dressed, and 40 others undressed ; (14), 
2 arrobas of cord; (15), 3 tents; (16), 8 table- 
cloths; (17), 2000 baskets of pepper ; (18), 2 ar- 
robas of balls of cotton; (19), 9 house cloths; 
(20), 3 arrobas of fat, to make candles; (21), 15 
Indians for the domestic service of the Spanish 
encomendero ; (22), 8 Indians for the cultivation of 
his garden ; (23), 8 others, to have charge of his 
flocks and cattle. 

This monstrous tribute might well call forth 
indignation, even from a man uninterested in the 
subject. Upon such a tribute Las Casas rests his 
assertion that the Indians are deprived of their 
goods and of their liberty, and that it is impossible 
not to apply the epithet of tyrannical to the go- 
vernment under which they live ; for, according 
to Aristotle, every government of a free people 
ought to have for its object the temporal and the 
spiritual good of the members of the body politic. 
Such was the intrepid writing, skilfully inter- 
woven with the most important facts, which Las 
Casas had the energy to produce at this advanced 
period of his life. 

Of all that is done in any great transaction, 
so small a part can be told, that the historian is 


often most unwillingly compelled to commit an 
act of seeming injustice, when he carefully com- 
memorates the deeds of the chief of a party, to the 
Many other exclusion of those of many of his associates. Las 


besides Las Casas was but one, though immeasurably the first, 


of a numerous body of men who may rightly be 
called the Protectors of the Indians. Amongst 
these protectors was an ex-auditor of the Audi- 
encias of Guatemala and Mexico, named Zurita. 
He also informed the Emperor of the excessive 
Evidence of nature of the imposts levied upon the Indians, 

the Auditor 

Zurita. and declared that it was one of the causes which 

led to the depopulation of the New World. An- 
other cause of the destruction of the Indians, 
according to Zurita, was their being compelled to 
work at the great edifices erected in the Spanish 
towns. They were forced, he says, to labour 
from the point of day until late in the evening. 
" I have seen," he adds, " after the Angelus, a 
great number of Indians cruelly conducted from 

The In- their work by a very powerful personage. They 

dians at 

work. bore along an enormous piece of wood, as large as 

a royal pine-tree, and when they stopped to rest, 
a negro who followed them, armed with a whip, 
forced them to continue their march, striking them 


with this whip, from the first man to the last, not 
that they should gain time, and undertake other 
labours, for the day's work was finished, but to 
prevent them from resting, and to keep up the 
bad habit, so common, of beating them incessantly, 
and maltreating them. As they were all naked, 
except that they wore a piece of linen round their 
loins, and as the negro struck as hard as he could, 
all the strokes of the whip had their full effect. 
Not one of the Indians said a word, or turned his 
head, for they were all broken down by misery. 
It is the custom to urge them constantly in their 
work, not to allow them to take any rest, and to 
chastise them if they attempt to do so. This ill- 
treatment of the Indians is the cause of my 
having, with the permission of your majesty, 
resigned my place of auditor." Such testimony 
as the above, confirmed by the resignation of office 
on the part of the witness, is most important in 
support of the statements and the conduct of Las 
Casas, the chief Protector of the Indians. 

The memorial on Peru, written by Las Casas 
in his ninetieth year, appears to have been the 
last effort of his fertile pen. Two years later, 
however, in 1566, he came forward, not to write, 


but to act on behalf of his Indians. In that year 
a grievance that was suffered by the province of 
Guatemala was made known to him. The Gua- 
temalans had been deprived of their audiencia. 
The Dominicans in that province wrote to Las 
Casas, telling him that the country suffered very 
much for want of an audiencia. The natives had 
no chance of justice, as they had to make a 
journey to Mexico, in order to prosecute any 
appeal. Las Casas well knew the importance of 
this matter. He accordingly left his collegiate 
monastery at Valladolid, and went to Madrid. 
There he put the case of the Guatemalans so 
strongly, to the King and to the Council of the 
Indies, that the audiencia was restored to Guate- 
mala. This was the last work of Las Casas. He 
Death of fell ill at Madrid, and, after a short illness, died 
t5tf6. there in July, 1566, being ninety- two years of 

age. His obsequies were attended by a large 
concourse of the inhabitants of that city ; and he 
was buried with all due solemnity in the convent 
chapel of " Our Lady of Atocha." 

In parting from Las Casas, it must be felt 
that all ordinary eulogies would be feeble and 


inadequate. His was one of those few lives that 
are beyond biography, and require a history to 
be written in order to illustrate them. His 
career affords, perhaps, a solitary instance of a 
man who, being neither a conqueror, a discoverer, 
nor an inventor, has, by the pure force of bene- 
volence, become so notable a figure, that large * 
portions of history cannot be written, or at least The life of 
cannot be understood, without the narrative of a portion of 

his deeds and efforts being made one of the 
principal threads upon which the history is 
strung. In early American history Las Casas 
is, undoubtedly, the principal figure. His extra- 
ordinary longevity has something to do with this 
pre-eminence. Very few men can be named who 
have taken so active a part in public affairs over 
such an extended period as nearly seventy years. 
He was an important person in reference to all that 
concerned the Indies, during the reigns of Fer- 
dinand the Catholic, of Philip the Handsome, of 
his son Charles the Fifth, and of Philip the Second. 
Other men have undertaken great projects of 
benevolence, and have partially succeeded in 
them ; but there is not any man whose success or 
failure, in such endeavours, has led to the great 



civil and military events which ensued upon the 
successes and failures of Las Casas. Take away- 
all he said, and did, and preached, and wrote, and 
preserved (for the early historians of the New 
World owe the records of many of their most 
valuable facts to him) ; and the history of the 
conquest would lose a considerable portion of its 
most precious materials. 

It may be fearlessly asserted, that Las Casas 

had a greater number of bitter enemies than any 

man who lived in his time ; and many were the 

The accusa- accusations they brought against him. But these 

tions of his . . 

enemies. were, for the most part frivolous in the extreme, 
or were pointed at such failings as are manifest to 
every reader of his life. There is nothing unex- 
pected in them. That he was hasty, vehement, 
uncompromising, and occasionally, though rarely, 
indiscreet, must be very clear to everyone. But 
such a man was needed. It was for others to sug- 
gest expedients and compromises. During his life- 
time there was always one person to maintain that 
strict justice should be done to the Indians, and to 
uphold the great principle that monarchs were set 
to rule for the benefit of their subjects. Without 
him the cause of the native would at once have 


descended into a lower level. Then, though vehe- 
ment, he was eminently persuasive ; and few who 
came near him escaped the influence of his power- 
ful and attractive mind. The one event of his life 
which his enemies fastened upon for censure, and 
as regards which their accusations are certainly 
not frivolous, was his unfortunate attempt at 
colonization on the coast of Cumana. To do 
those enemies justice, it must be admitted that 
they did not know the motives which had actuated 
him in obtaining that territory, nor how little 
blame could be attributed to him for the failure of 
that romantic enterprise. They could only ri- 
dicule his labourers, adorned with crosses, as they 
said, like the knights of Calatrava; and declare 
that, as a colonist, he had made a signal failure. His failure 
These accusers were not aware that, but for the n ist. 
rapacity of conquerors like themselves, who had 
previously infuriated the natives, Las Casas might 
have succeeded in converting and civilizing the 
inhabitants of the Pearl Coast, as he afterwards 
succeeded in peaceably reducing the inhabitants 
of the " Land of War." 

The event in his life which his contemporaries 
did not notice, but which has since been much 


deplored, and greatly magnified, was his being 

concerned in the introduction of negroes into the 

New World. For this he has himself made a 

His con- touching and most contrite apology, expressing 

trite apo- . _ . _ 

logy re- at the same time a tear lest his small share in 

specting . 

the first im- the transaction might never be forgiven to him. 

portation of 

negroes. In the cause of the Indians, whether he upheld 
it in speech, in writing, or in action, he appears 
never for one moment to have swerved from the 
exact path of equity. He has been justly called A^ 
" The Great Apostle of the Indies." 



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